I hiked up the hill of the pasture with a destination in mind. Nearly two decades earlier, I had taken the same route after losing the man I loved. He’d abandoned me for another woman.
For as long as I remember, my parents’ pasture has been my go-to place when grieved or troubled. It was a refuge. A place to find peace, even before I became acquainted with God.
Losing Our Safe Place
What is your go-to space? A city rooftop? A quiet room? A park bench by a lake? Or maybe it is a person. Grandmother. Sister. Or the warm arms of your husband. What if that place is lost? Where do you go to find strength, encouragement and love after that?
I’m going to lose my go-to space. In a few weeks, we anticipate the terms of the sale of the house and property to be complete. The 13 Mississippi acres I grew up on will belong to someone else.
So I took a memory walk. I stopped at special spots, like the depression at the top of the hill that I named the Sweetheart Pond. It was there as a girl I went to wrestle the disappointments of what I now know to be puppy love. And I went down the hill, to the meadow where I told my mother I wanted to build a house someday. My plans changed, but my love and attachment did not.
I also went to find the tree that encased the barbed wire. I’ve probably seen the tree dozens of times, but in 1999 God used this tree to convey a message to me.
Searching for Safety
At the time, I was lost. I knew the guy I’d dated off and on for eight years – my first real love – had left forever. Off work for the day – because that’s what you do when you are really, really hurting – I fled to my parents’ pasture. It was an August day and the leaves were turning color and falling due to drought. My stroll took me up the hill and near the barbed wire fence.
The fence had been erected before the tree ever sprouted, and when it did, the tree grew and grew, and eventually its circumference pushed against the barbed wire. Where was it to go?
The tree grew around the barb – spiky metal created to hinder cattle and horses from pushing against fencing and from escaping the enclosure. The tree enclosed the barb.
It grew beyond the barb.
That was my task. To grow beyond the barb. Hurts would become a part of me but it would not keep me from growing and being who God created me to be. To flourish.
Life after the Barb
The barb gave me of hope. It encouraged me to persevere. It reminded me God cared, watched over me and walked with me. I wasn’t done with the hard work of heartache, but I was strengthened. It was hard to grow beyond the barb, to push against it and feel grief. I mourned, and eventually, I moved forward.
There’s many ways I’ve seen my life flourish since that day. One of them was marrying a wonderful, faithful man, who treats me like Jesus does – by caring for my needs and loving me even when I’m unlovable.
I took pictures of the tree during my walk this past week. I found several trees that grew beyond the barbs. We are those trees. We all can grow beyond the barbs. Beyond disappointments. Beyond losses. Beyond the hurts inflicted on us by people or circumstances.
We can do this especially well with God. He reached out to me that day in several ways, and he is reaching out to you today, too. Even after our go-to places are out of our reach, He invites us to crawl into his lap by way of prayer and spill our concerns into his ear. He is the safe place we’ve sought – the refuge we that won’t be lost.
What barb is sticking in your life today? What ways did you grow beyond other barbs in the past? Draw strength from knowing you can grow beyond this one, too.
Copyright © 2018 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com