The hard, dirty rock I picked to sit on was not the most comfortable spot. The other uncomfortable aspect was this rock was in the middle of the woods. There were bees buzzing behind me and getting way too close to my face. Other random bugs flew above my head and all I knew was that I didn’t want them getting much closer. It was a late summer morning a few months ago and I was feeling the pain of my pulled heartstrings as I sat by the spot where we had buried Jet, my black lab. I let some tears fall and I thought about how she would’ve come up and given me a kiss right then. She hated it when I cried and always tried to comfort me with a lick or a touch of her paw. I was there in the woods because I had gone for a walk and decided to go visit her spot before I was headed off to college. Sitting there, I was actually pretty scared — I was by myself, there were all these bugs, I kept hearing noises from behind me, and there was a woodpecker in the tree (not a particularly scary animal, but it was hiding and still freaked me out). I was becoming paranoid for no real reason. Well, I guess this is the wild woods of the west, and there have been bears and mountain lions known to walk through that area, so maybe I can give myself a little bit of a pass on why I was slightly terrified…
As the minutes went by, I started to feel a little more comfortable on that spot in the woods. I began to notice the birds flitting about in the trees above me. The funny thing was these birds were hanging upside down. I was really confused by this because I had never seen a bird do this. Basically, these little birds were perched on branches, but they were literally clinging to the branch completely perpendicular with their heads toward the ground. What? I don’t know why, but right then I thought about how scared I am to be upside down. It’s a weird fear I have, but I really hate being upside down. As a kid, I always opted for the swing set during recess and not the monkey bars. I just learned how to dive this summer at 18 years old and finally taught myself how to do a handstand at age 19! I was so afraid to learn how to dive because I just couldn’t imagine going toward the ground with my head first, even though my parents assured me the water was not going to hurt me. My brain thought otherwise. Anyway, back to the woods, these birds literally did not care. They would just hang there on the tree upside down, fly around from there, shimmy down the branch upside down…no cares in the world. It was almost like they knew Who created them. It is like they know Jesus and what He said about them:
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27 NIV
I have probably wasted more than a few hours of my life worrying about things. This summer, some of my time was spent worrying about diving and how I might get hurt if I tried. It never occurred to me that maybe I could do it and be fine.
These birds were not worried at all. Even if they fell, they could catch themselves. God created them with that ability. They know that they can fly, and so they also know they can hang upside down. Knowing the truth about who they are allows them to be everything they are meant to be, without any fear or hesitation.
And that’s who I want to be.
I want to be able to hang upside down, whether it’s when I’m up in a tree or in the middle of my day. I want to freely live without fear because I know that if I fall, God is going to catch me. I also know that if I fall, I just need to think a little bit, but I can land safely because God has built me to do that. Like the birds of the air, I am strong and capable. I just have to remember that.
So there I was with tear streaks down my cheeks, a heart beating inside my chest that still missed my dog terribly, surrounded by plenty of my fears. Alone in the middle of the woods, bees buzzing next me, some other freaky bugs crawling around, and loud noises coming from behind me. I promise this isn’t a horror movie, just a normal afternoon in the woods. The adventure was complete with a rabid squirrel that started staring at me and chirping extremely angrily (okay, that thing really did scare me and I was happily ready to get up and leave after that…)
But before I stood up, all of a sudden, I felt this warmth on my skin. The sun started breaking through the cracks in the leaves and began to shine right on me. It was funny because after we said goodbye to our dog there a few months ago, we noticed how lovely it was that all around the area was shade but right there on that spot was sunshine. When I first sat down on that hard, dirty rock, it was cold in the shade, but after some time had passed, the sun just opened up right on me. I felt like God was saying to me, “I see you, Grace. I feel what you’re feeling. Lift up your head and look at me. I’m here and I see you.”
I felt that. I felt God. More than a feeling, I knew He was there. And I did lift up my head, closed my eyes, and let His sunshine sit on my face. Birds were still tweeting. Rabid squirrel was still scampering around. Freaky bugs were still crawling.
But I was okay. I was okay in God’s presence. I was okay in His light. I could smile and have peace even as I was surrounded by my fears.
So when you’re surrounded, when you’re scared to death, when you think it would just be so much easier to get up and walk away…take a seat and look up. Lift your head to heaven and let God shine on you. He will meet you right in the midst of your fear. He can give you strength and peace and a smile so you can look right at that circumstance, at that fear, at that change, at that diagnosis, at that rabid squirrel, and say, “I’m okay. God’s got me. I am going to be okay.”
Photos by James, my uber-talented brother ♥︎3