Tonight I am sitting in a new place along an ancient stonewall that cuts a straight line through towering oak trees that may be almost as old as the wall. Their very existence reminds me that I am not the only one to ever step foot here. Someone, a long time ago, placed each one of these stones by hand for some reason. If they could speak I wonder what they would say. And the old oaks that have watched this wall crumble over the years – I wonder what they would say.
Maybe they would tell stories of guys like me who sat in this same spot for hours on end. I can almost imagine an old man sitting on the wall under the big oak as the sun sets over the ridge behind him. His tired shoulders and weathered face tell me everything I imagine he’s thinking. After a long day of work and a hard life he’s come up to his favorite pile of rocks to sit and think. He’s thinking about his wife and kids, his work, and his faith. Before long I realize that I’m staring at a reflection of my older self.
Every now and then the sound of rustling leaves distracts my mind from the reality of life and I scan the woods to search for the maker of the noise. Each time it turns out to be a squirrel and I’m back to thinking about the old man that’s really me. Part of me desperately wants to talk with him so he can tell me it’s all going to be OK. But his tired body makes me fearful of what I might learn and I’m glad I won’t be able to ask him what I long to know.
This man in front of me knows how my life story plays out. He can tell me that God was faithful in my life during the times I wondered where He was. He can tell me that the things in this life that cause stress are just that – they are things. Things that can steal joy and cause discontent. Things that if not placed in God’s hands can make your arms awfully tired and your face full of wrinkles. I bet the old man would tell me to continue trusting God, for His will is not always ours. Then he’d follow it up with something sarcastic and totally ruin the moment. I guess some things about me will never change.
As darkness falls on us I imagine him getting up and slowly walking out of sight. The sight of his nonexistent butt and baggy jacket confirm what I’ve always known to be true – I’ll never put on weight or learn how to buy clothes that actually fit. Figures. Even so, I’m encouraged to see him pressing on, letting me know it’s going to be OK. In a few minutes I’ll be doing the same. The big buck I was hoping to see didn’t show up tonight but after my conversation with the old man I’m not sure I was really here for a big buck anyway. I’ll get him next time.