I have steps going up my back yard. They lead to a small sitting area, just big enough for two people to sit side by side. Usually I am there alone. Usually I’m there to talk to God. It is like a treehouse, but without the tree. There is a lot of spiritual symbolism going on with this path and this place.
The top of my back yard is forty feet above street level. The street itself is higher up than the majority of this area. This means I can see downtown Nashville from my back yard. This means that I get to see beautiful sunsets, as my house faces west. Sometimes you have to get up above it all to see things better.
We put the patio area in many years ago, and it has settled a bit. Weeds grow between the stones, and bugs scuttle around. It has been there long enough that it looks like it came with the house. The stones are made of concrete, but they have an Escher-esque puzzle like design so they look random when they fit together.
I go up there when I am having a bad day. Sometimes I need to escape. It is far enough that it works. Sometimes I’m so angry that I’m better off being away from people for a bit. It is a safe place for my own personal time out. I’m reminded of the star stones in the “Wrinkle in Time” series by Madeline L’Engle. The Murry family would go there when they needed to be alone.
I realized at one point that I was going up there only when I was angry. That didn’t seem fair to God. I need to remember to make time to go up there when I’m happy too. Sure, I can talk to God anywhere. But this is nice. It is a little retreat.
This summer I decided to have the stepping stones put in. They were put in by a Buddhist. There’s some symbolism in that. I supplement my Christianity with Buddhism. His helper was this amazingly interesting man with thick dreadlocks and a philosophy that involves literally shaking out all your problems. If you are having a hard time, jump out and down and yell to get it out, he says. I’m willing to give it a try.
I had the stones put in because my husband didn’t like the idea of me walking barefoot in the yard. It was too much bother to put on shoes. I have fond memories of playing barefoot in my yard when I was a child. There are more moles and yellowjackets now, it seems, so he has a point. My husband is concerned for my physical and spiritual safety. He is often concerned that I’m going out too far. He’s one for staying in the boat. I’m one for walking out to Jesus on the water. He’s afraid I’m going to sink. I respect his concern, but timidity never got me anywhere. So, in went the stones.
Just having the stones leading up to the sitting area, the star stones, has been a philosophical journey. Somehow I didn’t realize that the grass was going to grow up around the stones. I didn’t think about how I was going to have to maintain them.
Isn’t this just like our spiritual life? We get started on it, and then we start to realize that it takes a lot of work to keep it going. It isn’t about buying a new Bible or a study guide. It is about sitting down and actually doing the work. Our lives of faith get rusty and dusty when we don’t work on them.
I get overwhelmed by how much work is involved sometimes. Then I remember. One stone at a time. Don’t look at the rest of them. Just do what I can. Even spending ten minutes working on them is better than nothing. Ten minutes every day for a week and it is done.
This is just like prayer. If we break it up into little things, we get there. If we don’t work on it, we are stuck at the bottom of the hill.