Now, take a moment and study the photograph (double click it to enlarge). Make a mental note of everything you see. Then, write down what this picture means to you. Don't worry, you won't be handing in this assignment.
Now, here's the story behind the picture:
"Come... you must visit our rainforest." Those were the exact words of my lodging host. I assumed that we were visiting the rainforest. Standing at the trailhead, it became clear that he wasn't joining me. However, the explorer in me wouldn't let me back out.
"How bad could it be?" It was on the grounds of a historic sugar plantation, so it had to be safe... right? Besides, I was a UCS (Unofficial Cub Scout - had all the gear, but never went to the meetings). Since then, I've backpacked and camped throughout the United States. I could handle this... right? RIGHT?
So off I trekked into a rather noisy Caribbean rainforest. The air was as thick as a steam room, making the downward sloping trail as slippery as frozen stairs. With every descending step, the canopy of tropical foliage blocked out all but the most determined rays of mid-day sun. The dark, vast crevice which ran alongside the trail made my stomach knot up. Here I was, clad in a t-shirt, shorts and canvas sneakers peering into the deep abyss. Two thoughts surfaced rather quickly: (1) this wasn't Central Park and (2) I had violated the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared."
My host instructed me to follow the trail to the main attraction, the unmistakable Big Tree. Confession - I never saw the tree. For the first hundred yards or so, I never took my eyes off the narrow trail. My eyes darted to and fro looking for snakes while my ears kept track of what sounded like something stalking me. My camping experience tried to reassure me that it was leaves falling to the ground, but I've been in the concrete jungle too long. I did what any New Yorker would do. I stopped in my tracks, and assumed the battle position to face my stalker head-on. I stood quietly waiting, all the while nervously peeking downward to make sure the jungle creatures weren't attacking my feet. Yes, I'll admit it -- full blown paranoia!
Should I turn back and climb the steep, slippery trail? Should I press onward, despite the fact that the trail ahead was cloaked in darkness? I grabbed my camera and began shooting pictures. I shot where I'd been, but they came out blurry. I shot the crevice, but it was too dark. I then turned around and shot a picture of the trail before me. What came into the LCD screen caught me off guard. There was a strong ray of sunlight streaming thru the jungle canopy and just beyond that was a little wooden bridge. Where did that come from? I hadn't seen that before. I stared ahead and still didn't see the sun nor the bridge. Am I coming down with Jungle Fever? I looked back at the screen, then ahead to the trail. Slowly, everything came into focus. There was a little wooden bridge that would transport me over the deep, dark abyss. And there was ample sunshine to light my path. From that moment on, I made like Forrest Gump - I was run-ning!
The picture is now my background on my computer desktop. No profound reason other than I found it beautiful. Then one day, the essence of the picture hit me with one of those Aha! moments.
We each have a personal path to follow. It isn't a group trail, family toll road or congregational highway. It's your personal path and has been divinely appointed specifically for you. At times it may appear too narrow, but there's more than enough room for you. The lack of width makes turning around difficult. Not impossible, just difficult enough for you to reconsider before retreating. The foliage alongside the path rings the alarm. Hear that foliage crunching under the weight of your footprint? That's you... treading off that path.
The riches of the path are available to each of us. Yet, I suspect that faith may determine how much bounty we can actually partake. My jungle foray was an exercise of little faith. Teeny, tiny faith believers tend to keep our eyes peeled to the path, sometimes at the expense of knowing which direction we're headed. We may learn to appreciate, even find beauty in this limited view. Why then do we arrive at life's checkpoints, having missed the experience of the journey, and saddled with a nagging sense of, is this it?
We, of budding faith, raise our sights just enough to see the foliage, perhaps even the crevices that lie ahead. We appreciate the blessings of our journey, yet are sometimes stumped by what we can't see. Yet, we continue forward in the belief that by faith, a way has already been made for us.
What that day in the jungle taught me is this: those of great faith -- faith that can move mountains -- enjoy the full harvest of their life journey. They experience the journey, hear it, taste it, smell it and feel it. They see untold beauty. However, they don't have a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. They, too, see the crevices and the impending darkness ahead. They don't always see the bridge or the sun rays. But great is their faith. They don't just believe the bridge exist to carry them over the crevice, they know it. They see the darkness, but they know the Light will come to illuminate their path. They know it. Because great is thy faithfulness, their eyes are fixed on the rich blessings of the journey. Because Great is thy Faithfulness, they rest assured knowing that their trail is the perfect width, length and destination for them, with the perfect accompaniment of the Most High God!
So, I ask you my friend. Are you ready for the journey of your life? I am! I believe you are too. In fact, your journey is destined to be so exciting that I want to be part of it. So, count me in. Just remember, faith the size of a mustard seed shall propel us through 2007 and beyond!
Mustard seed size chart = o
(One size fits all)
(One size fits all)
Happy New Year, from That Johnson Boy!
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