At first when we came upon the rough boards nailed between scraggly pines off to the side of the mountain trail, we wondered why they were there. Had someone tacked them up to frame a lean-to? “Nice place to sleep,” I mused, “up away from the town in the quiet, though a little too close to the edge for my comfort.”
We walked past the mystery boards and came around to the other side. A third board had been placed horizontally beneath the other two. A bench! A gift from someone who had gone before, inviting, “Pause here. Turn and look from this angle. Don’t miss the beauty in this place.”
Ever since I’ve been wondering: how often do I fail to recognize the rough-hewn benches in life as invitations to pause and savor beauty and truth? How often am I so consumed with critiquing the bench that I fail to turn and look at the beauty beyond?
Sometimes the benches show up in my life disguised as illness, a traffic jam, a long line at the checkout. “Pause here. Listen. Look.”
Lately I’ve been reminded that even fear might be one of these unlikely, well-camouflaged benches.
My instinct is to see fear as something to be quickly fixed: nails pulled, unsightly boards carted away. I can become so preoccupied with dismantling the bench that I miss its invitation.
But if each time I feel niggling anxious fear I receive it as an invitation to slow and turn and look, I can see beauty in many directions:
I can look back and count the ways Jesus has been faithful.
I can look around and remember that this moment is a gift from the One who loves me, and savor it.
I can look outward and consider that the world I can’t see with my eyes is alive and active and at work in the world that I can see.
And I can look inward and remember that the One who created the universe lives in me and promises never to leave.
It’s a tall bench—a bit hard to climb up on, but once its invitation to sit and rest and savor is accepted, I soon find myself swinging my legs like the beloved child that I am.