In the Woods of Yesterday
I am staring into the forest of a land I’ve not seen since I was 18 years old. Back then I was driven here by a soldier following orders. It was night and I wasn’t able to drink in the scenery as I do now. That night I did what I once did so well. I fought with fury, hatred, and rage. I fought a stranger to death with fires of vengeance burning through my soul. Those flames were stoked by pain, abuse, and the abandoned dreams of some day feeling relief. I was driven back to base after my work was done and I never thought I’d return. But more than a decade has gone by and here I am staring into the familiar ferns, flowers, and leaves. I return as man on a mission. And though there is no soldier driving me here I am still led with a purpose only soldiers can understand.Read More
If you’d told me ten years ago when I’d wiped blood from my blade that the next time I’d come to this land it would be as a free man, I would have called you a liar. I would have looked at the blade and known there was nothing that could get me out. How does a monster become a man again? How does a restless heart find peace? It doesn’t because monsters don’t need to be men, and restless hearts can’t find peace. Not in this world and believe me I looked. I tried it I dabbled I drank, I feasted on everything I could find to satisfy the itch between my shoulders. The need for something more something better, whatever it was could not be what I needed.
I was not a whole man that night I left this state. I was wanting for a piece of something I could not hold. For who has held the pieces of a shattered soul? Who could mend the madness and put it back together again? It was dust scattered in the wind. But then there came a day when the winds of wondering grew still. When the need for something better found something that satisfied its hunger. It came in with four letters and more meaning than words could contain.
Simple honest and unconditional love wove its way through the tendrils of my wounded heart. It found its way into the tunnels of torment I’d once called home. It brought with it a savor of hope, a fragrance of relief.
Chelsea loved me then and she loves me now. This woman who placed clothes on my back when I was too weary to rise from the shame and self-hate. She fed me when I was hungry for purpose. She reminded me of things I’d so carefully forgotten. She helped me see that God still has so much in store for men like me. She kissed my fingers and held me close. She let me run at times up the hillsides of mountains thousands of miles away from here. She watched me scream as the mountains of madness fell on my shoulders. She held me tight when I begged the world to let me go.
She had no idea who I was the day she married me but now she does. She did not know about our hatred, anger or the blade. But she learned about these and loved me still. She is a marvelous treasure and I am so glad to know her and see her still at my side.
She put up with me as we put our marriage to the test, publishing a book, moving out of our home and halfway across the country to speak publically at a conference for the first time. We did not know it then but the joys of unknown tomorrows were on the horizon. They were coming but still felt so far off. I did not know if we would make it as we downsized everything we had to fit into the space of an RV, but every so gradually we found a way. She found a place for each and every little thing.
So much had to go but it forced us to learn the difference between what we needed and what was really just extra fluff. This lifestyle has driven us down to the basics, there is no space for the extra’s and the just in case. But there was just enough space for my restless heart.
She looks over me as we crest another hill as we work our way over The Appalachian Mountains and asks me a question. “Honey why are you so quiet?” For the last two weeks I’ve had very little to say. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the “strong silent type.” Silence is a rarity for me but so too are the places we are traveling, the miles we are driving and the memories in my mind.
It has been so long since I’ve seen the places where I once burned with so much hatred and was filled with so much pride. Last time I’d come to this state I was at the peak of my fitness, I was ready to climb to the top of the underworlds power structure and cut the heart of out of every monster I found there. But soon I saw the ghost in the darkness. Those creatures they call Colonel’s, commanders, and black dragons. Cowards who know how to put on a chameleons uniform and play the part of a patriotic soldier or diplomat while they lie, cheat, and kill their way to the top. I learned what it was to be a knight in greedy men’s private wars.
That was then but this is now. Now I am free to choose where I will drive my family and what new memories will be played on my internal screen.
That is why today I pickup the sharpest weapon my heavenly Father ever gave me. It is this pen, these clicking and clacking keys, which have won more battles and stilled millions of men’s’ internal wars. It is the Word spoken and written that took on flesh and consumed the cowards of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. It is the King of Glory who makes shepherds valiant warriors; murderers and liars into kings and wounded women find purpose and peace. He is The Great Redeemer and He has taken me on this journey and led me back to this place.
He led me back to the grounds where the earth was stained red by the work of my vengeful hands. He led me to the place where I poured out my rage and used the blade to scratch that restless itch. He let me weep and pour out my sorrow for the strangers life no longer beating at night. He let me know there would be justice and it would not be blind. It would not look like a woman dressed in flowing gowns with scales of liberty held high. No, a day will come when The Captain of The Heavenly Host, The Lord Most High would atone for all the blood that has been spilled.
I used to pray for its nearness for His vengeance to come soon. I used to beg Him to come and pour out His wrath and fury on the wicked and worthless abusers and corruptors of justice, freedom, and truth. He quieted my demands as I read R.C. Sproul’s book The Holiness of God. The truths in this little book reminded me to be quiet it my demands for His hastening the day and my beseeching for His fury.
Who am I to demand such things from The Holy One? The One who set eternity in my heart has also set men, more righteous than I, ablaze for sins far less open and vile as my own. See Leviticus 10 and the story of Nadab and Abihu for more. He is the One who has granted me mercies beyond mercies. My very life has been a testimony of His mercy. There is no discernable reason I should have left this state alive while that man was dragged away and burned, his ashes christening the waters beyond the shore.
But The One who calls cowards out of their closets and teaches them to bold as lions and to be fierce as the leopards has purchased my life. He had mercy on me, why because He has seen fit to do so. Today I am thankful for that and I am sorry I ever demanded He hasten His vengeance on the wicked. I am sorry I was greedy for more blood to be spilled and the wrong to be punished.
His sharp Word holds a continual mirror up to my soul and reminds me of the logs still lodged in my eyes. I am so thankful I have been given a chance to hear the marvelous truths about His redemption, His offering of resurrection to the dead and dying. Although I thought my life would be perpetually bound with the restlessness of Cain, the cursed one and father of murderers, I have seen it does not have to be so.
To each of you restless ones I hope today you can learn of the One who will hold fast to you and walk with you. If you need to run and keep running, He too will run with you. He does not grow tired He does not grow weary. He will be gracious to you, at other times He will correct you and call you out of your own head and show you a better way.
He has led me a better way, but He has led me back to a place I did not want to go. He led me here because He loves me, and He loves you. He loves the wonders those whose hearts draw them to wonder what lies beyond the horizon or in the valleys just beyond their reach. He is calling to you and I pray you answer Him. I pray you seek Him with all of your heart and find the rest you have sought all your life. He alone can give you what you have been longing for; He alone can give you that which you seek.
If you are waiting for something to satisfy you and quench the thirst burning in the back of your throat I have found it in His Word. I did not find it in the churches pews or in seeker friendly feel good sermons. I found it in the forests as I opened His Word and studied The Story of the One who made the minerals and miracles beneath my feet, the trees reaching towards His sun and the light of hope I’ve come to know as my own.
To each of you friends, family and spouses of restless men and women I thank you. Thank you for holding on to us when we wanted to go. Thank you for being patient as we found our way towards peace. Please continue to carry on with us as we press on towards the prize of peace crowns of glory promised us.
The sun will set upon this forest soon and it will draw to the end a day of reflection. Soon tomorrow will come and with it will be another forest, a meadow or perhaps a mountain. There will be laughter and tears but by His mercy I pray there will come many more memories of freedom and life.