That Time I Walked With God In The Woods

I want to tell you about an encounter I had with Jesus in the fall of 2017. At the time, it was one of the most revelatory experiences I had ever had with Him up to that point. But, over the last few years it got buried underneath the stress of the world’s crises. Ever faithful, the Lord has been kind to bring it back to my heart, allowing me to relive it, remember it, feel it, learn from it and ultimately share it with you.

I was in ministry school in California at the time. Part of the ministry school experience was to travel out to Weaverville, California and spend a day at a ropes course. I was only a couple of months into school and was thrilled to experience a day of adventure, as I thought it was primarily meant to be some sort of ‘team building exercise’ and couldn’t wait to have fun with my new friends. I couldn’t have known that God intended it to be so much more than my expectations. 

When the 70 of us arrived we met Tim and his assistants. Tim was probably in his early 40s and was originally from New Zealand but had spent a fair portion of his recent years running this ropes course event for the church that hosted our ministry school. Tim was knowledgeable about all sorts of adventure activities and gave us the rundown on what we were going to do that day. 

The first activity in store for us as a lead up to the actual ropes course was a trust building exercise. We would be split into two groups and one group would be blindfolded and the other group would be leading the blindfolded through the woods. I was paired up with one of my ministry school interns (or “third years”) and she had to essentially guide me through the forest, telling me when to step up to avoid a rock, when to step down as we tackled a decline, and my job was to simply follow and trust her to get us where we were going. We had to hold on to our guide physically in some way because it would be nearly impossible for them to guide us through the brambles of the woods by words alone. We chose to interlock our arms together so that I could easily feel the subtle shifts she made as she maneuvered the woods with me. It also made it where she didn’t have to use words too often because I could feel so much and walk quite confidently. 

As we began our walk I felt a certain level of discomfort internally because I didn’t love being at the mercy of this person and it genuinely is just a bit awkward to not see where you’re going. However, after a minute or so of walking I made the conscious choice to yield to whatever God might try to teach me in this and I simply gave up my discomfort and welcomed the process. Almost instantly, I felt myself become that much more sensitive to the way she was walking and leading me through the woods. I didn’t feel the desperate need to try to see my feet below the blindfold to guide myself, and had no desire to resist her help. I could easily sense when we were shifting left, or shifting right, I could easily hear when the group was speeding up or slowing down, I could hear her whisper “lift your right leg over this stone in front of you” without any straining or need for her to repeat commands. Within a couple minutes I found that not only was I completely at ease with following, but I had allowed myself to physically lean against her and rely entirely on her guidance. I wonder what she thought about how heavily I was leaning on her…I never asked. 

I listened for her quiet voice to lead me in and out of pits and ravines, up hills, over obstacles, under low hanging branches, and along smooth, flat ground. As we walked what felt like ages but was probably only four or five minutes I began to feel the weighty comforting presence of God around me. And as always, once He was near I was weeping. I realized even before I took my blindfold off that this was the trusting way God asks us to walk with Him.This is what it could feel like to be fully yielded, fully dependent. The safety, freedom, and sense of unburdened-ness that I experienced walking in the woods that day is truly hard to describe. 

The way we chose to interlock our arms instead of me just putting my hand on her shoulder allowed me to have a much tighter grip on her and feel the subtleties of her movements that I couldn’t have felt if I’d kept a wider berth. I could feel her breathing, I could hear her whisper. In this way God showed me how tightly and closely we are to cling to Him as we walk through this life. There is such a massive difference in our ability to trust, hear, and feel when we keep even the slightest distance. The tighter I held, the closer we were, the easier the journey actually was. Not only that, but I found that words alone wouldn’t be enough in that circumstance. Being able to feel how sure-footed she was and sense the shifts of her movements gave me more confidence at moments than her words sometimes would. 

In fact, as the walk continued I began to feel this confidence bubble up within me inside of this established trust. I began to know with zero uncertainty that the closer I was to her the more safe I was. I almost wanted to start out on a full sprint through the forest with her next to me because I had that level of confidence that we could run so successfully if I just remained locked to her. I knew she saw every obstacle coming before me and she would warn me and guide me through it. I had nothing to fear! I had nothing to anticipate, or stress about, or plan my way around. All I needed to do was stay close and listen out for her words or sense her shifts. I started feeling giddy and almost childlike with how free this made me feel. It freed me up to simply enjoy the experience. Enjoy the rest, enjoy the peace, enjoy the adventure. I wondered about how different life would be if I actually allowed myself to live like this with God everyday…

But just as I was beginning to start dissecting what God was teaching me, Tim told us that we would now switch roles and I would be the one guiding my partner through the woods. I wiped the tears from my eyes, blindfolded her and assumed the position as her support through the forest. We interlocked our arms once again and began on the journey. As we were walking I kept getting hit with revelation after revelation. When we came to a place where she had to step over a rock to keep on the path, I could see it was quite a small stone but she had no awareness of how big the obstacle was and sometimes she would take a much larger step than was necessary. When there was an object to maneuver around I could easily see where it started and where it ended, but she had no way to know this so all she could do was cling to me and trust me to lead her around it. I could see how far we had before we reached the smooth, grassy place. She couldn’t. I could see how deep the ravines were, how low hanging the branches, how cluttered the path. All she knew of what was coming, what was there, and what she’d just walked through were my words and her imagination.

I didn’t need anything from her except her trust. If she resisted or tried to run away, this walk would be much harder for both of us. But if she yielded into trust as I had done while blindfolded this could be an amazing journey. When she chose trust as well, I felt a deep sense of protection over her, and such mercy and care for her. I felt this need to tend to her, communicate helpfully, lead carefully, and felt emboldened by her reliance on me. As long as she relied on me, I could look out for her. Sometimes she might still trip here or there, but I was able to hold her up and keep us going. Again, I felt the presence of God so strongly. I felt He was showing me the depth of His care for me. I gained a deep understanding of His awareness of our vulnerability and His passion to protect and help us. I saw His limitlessness and our limitations. I felt His mercy. By the time our walk had finished, I was entirely undone.

For someone who had prided herself for so long on being “independent” and who didn’t need anyone or anyone’s help; someone who had always been leaned on but rarely allowed to do any leaning herself, this experience was catalytic. I think somewhere I truly believed that to lean on people in any way was weakness and I believe that some part of me even believed that about God. That yes, I was to love Him, serve Him, and trust Him…but fully leaning on Him or being fully dependent on Him was where I often struggled. How much should we lean before we’re considered weak? How much should we depend on Him before we’re considered lazy?

I always saw myself as a ‘partner to God’ so to speak. We worked interdependently, I helped Him, He helped me. Let’s just laugh at that together! One of the things this exercise showed me was that once the blindfold went on I truly could see nothing. I was fully blind, helpless, useless. My guide could see everything around us, in all directions. They had all the power, and I had none. I had all the needs and they had none. The blindfolded person is me and you. The guide is Jesus. No matter how spiritual we are, no matter how many years we’ve walked with Jesus in this life, at the end of the day we cannot see our future. We do not have an aerial view of this life. We only see linearly and experience only what is happening in the present…right now. We cannot see what’s coming, we cannot go back in the past, we cannot look right and see left at the same time. We are utterly dependent on God for everything, whether our ego likes to admit that or not. 

Sure, being prophetic can give you perhaps some sort of inkling or cloudy view of aspects of the future but as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” No matter who we are, we only see this life dimly, we only know in part. God is the all-knowing, all-seeing One. Not us. Beware of thinking higher of yourself than is true! It was a beautiful thing to come to grips with my own weakness; my need; my blindness. It is deeply freeing to know that we only see in part. If humans were designed to see all and handle all, the world would be a much healthier place. But the reason we live in the broken world we do is because we were never meant to live independent of our Creator. We don’t have what it takes to be God – we simply aren’t strong enough, smart enough, loving enough. We are flesh and bone. He has never asked us to be more than we are.

God is not confused by who we are and how He has designed us. His Father’s heart compels Him to defend us and to have compassion for our vulnerability. He sees us as children and friends, not as equals. He blesses the poor in spirit, those who know their need for Him. He uses the weak things of this world to confound those wise in their own eyes. He gives grace to the humble and resists the proud person. In our weakness His strength is seen. He isn’t impressed with how competent we think we are, He is moved by humility. He isn’t wow-ed by our intelligence or sacrifice, but rather He promotes those who know need and repeatedly look to Him. 

Did you know that there’s no such thing as being too dependent on God? There is never a point where God looks at us and says, “Why are you still asking Me for help? You should be able to look after yourself by now.” He never speaks to us like this! Because we never outgrow our need for God! He never stops being a Father to us and you will never stop being His child. He will forever look at you with the wise eyes of a loving Father who will forever know more and see more than you, no matter how old or how much you’ve accomplished. 

It has been five years since that walk in the forest and I only just now see that those revelations started me on a journey to disassemble my “self made woman” image. I see now that God was priming me and preparing me to move into a lifetime of deep dependence. He was setting me free of the desperate need to look after myself and the fear of asking for help. He was introducing me to the ways of the Kingdom that I had ignored and was reengineering my belief in His leadership, trustworthiness, and provision. I know we’ve heard time and time again that we aren’t meant to do this life in our own strength, but it wasn’t until I walked blindfolded that I understood that we literally can’t do this life in our own strength. We are blind, weak, vulnerable and needy. Jesus is the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path (Psalm 119). Without Him we see nothing, we can do nothing, we are nothing. But with Him we are grace filled, power filled, sure-footed, saints. 

I hope this story blesses you somehow. I hope you embrace your need for Him and cling to Him like the narrow-road Guide that He is. You were never meant to do this life on your own. Cast your cares upon Him and welcome Him as Your leader, your Lord, your closest Friend. He will never leave you, He will never forget you, and He will never lead you where you don’t belong. 

I pray that today you would accept your weakness, turn from self-reliance and allow Him to love you. Amen.

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