In retrospect, I probably looked a little “Paul Bunyanesque” from his perspective. So while it was understandable, his unexpected question still surprised me. And it made me think.
I was enjoying a Poncho Hike last Saturday in the mountains above Flagstaff. My favorite trail was even more beautiful in the rain. The lush alpine meadows, generously watered for weeks by the Arizona monsoons, were sprinkled with wildflowers. The dripping aspen groves were majestic. It was a rich time of worship and rest.
The weather had cleared a little as I headed back to the trailhead, and I no longer had the mountain to myself. Clad in my dark green poncho and muddy boots, carrying a tall wooden walking stick, I stepped off the soggy trail as two ladies and a little blonde-haired boy approached. He looked wonderingly at this tall green stranger, and with a slight speech impediment that made it all the cuter, he boldly asked me this question: “Ah you da Leadah of da fowest?”
I often have what the French call l’esprit d’escalier, or a “staircase wit.” It means you think of something too late to say it, as you descend the staircase from your friend’s house. Maybe because I was so fully “in the moment,” enjoying my walk with God, a response came quickly to mind in this case. Here is how I responded to this little boy:
“No, I’m not the leader of the forest. I just enjoy it. God is the leader of the forest, and I come here to spend time with Him.”
None of three seemed especially taken by my response, but it made a huge impact on me. As I walked on, I spent some time meditating on what I had said so spontaneously.
I’m glad I’m not the leader of the forest. I’m glad that I’m not in charge of the meadows and canyons, the pine trees and the mountains, the aspen groves and the wildflowers. If I were responsible for it all, I couldn’t find rest there. And it would be nowhere near as beautiful as it is.
I rest there, because God is indeed the leader of the forest. He created it, He sustains it, and I am free to walk through His masterpiece and enjoy His creativity. It demands nothing of me as it fills my heart with thoughts of Him. I leave boot prints among His fingerprints.
Those thoughts amplified my rest as I headed back to the car. But they also challenged me.
God is in charge of a lot more than the forest. He rules over my entire life. My family, my health, my ministry, my finances, my present, my future, my salvation, are all ultimately in His hands. Although I have roles to play in all of these areas, sometimes very significant roles, He is the ultimate leader in all of them.
In his wonderful book The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan points out that a Sabbath heart is necessary in order to fully benefit from a Sabbath day. And a Sabbath heart enthusiastically embraces this idea: God is God, and I’m not. I can rest, because I know He won’t. The Psalmist put it this way: “He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper” (Psalm 121:3-5).
I’m committed to seeing the fingerprints of God on my day-to-day life as much as I see them in nature. I want to constantly celebrate His kind presence, His beautiful creativity, and His vigilant protection. I want my moments of Sabbath in nature to build my ability to rest in Him every day of the week, confident that He is my ever-alert keeper.
In my life I want rest to be normal, not exceptional – because He is the leader of much more than the forest.
So thanks, little guy. It was a better question than I knew at the time. Not only am I not Paul Bunyan, I’m also not God. I’m grateful for the reminder.
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