Last weekend, Sue and I, and our golden retriever, Bess, set out for a moorland walk. We were in ‘the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty’. Not much beauty today, though. The skies were grey, and it was a bit misty in the way that seems to drain everything of its colour. But we needed the walk, so off we went. Not much to see. But the birds! Not another sound – just the birds.
As we went up through some woods there was the melodious fluting of blackbirds and the drumming of a woodpecker (We stop and peer through the trees – can we see him?). When we reached the fells above, it was the bubbling call of curlew and the ‘pee-whit’ of lapwings. Over the heather-clad moorland, the harsh alarm call of red grouse. And the call of another bird we didn’t recognise (must look it up when we get back). In the meadows of the return leg, the constant twittering of skylarks, even on so grey a day. Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder; but it can also be in the ear of the listener.
In our walk with God, we may go through ‘grey days’. Not much to see. It all seems a bit dreary. But Paul says that we don’t walk by what we see, but by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). And, he tells us, ‘faith comes by hearing’ (Romans 10:17). What brightens the greyest of days in our walk with Him is His voice. Like blackbird and curlew, He sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17); like the woodpecker, He drums out his presence, inviting us to look for Him. Like the grouse’s alarm call, He warns us: “Keep away! Go back!”. Or like the skylarks, His voice simply brightens the greyness with a different kind of light.
So, I’m asking Him, “What are You saying to me today”. When I walk with Him, I’m always in an ‘area of outstanding beauty’. It may not look that wonderful today; but if I listen to Him and hear what He’s saying, it’ll sound amazing, full of ‘outstanding beauty’.
Prayer: Speak, Lord, in the stillness, While I wait on Thee; Hushed my heart to listen, In expectancy. For the words Thou speakest, They are life indeed; Living bread from heaven, Now my spirit feed! (Hymn by Emily Crawford 1920)
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