A Walk in the Woods

I took a walk today. It wasn’t a walk just for the heck of it, or to enjoy one of the first sunny days that we’ve experienced in a while, but it was one that had a purpose. For the last year, I’ve been part of a group of other clergy from across the Southeast learning and honing new skills at being effective pastors and leaders. Over our time together, we’ve delved deep within the dark recesses of our innermost beings trying to discover exactly how God has wired us as unique individuals, and as ministers. To say the least, it has been both a grueling and liberating process. But today, rather than being subjected to another battery of tests that measure our personalities and leadership qualities, we were instructed to take a walk—take a walk and learn from nature what it means to be a leader.

The exercise seemed rather inane at first; after all, what does nature know about leadership? I thought I would be clever and devise what I could say that I learned even before we began. Yes, I know, that’s cheating, but that’s what was going through my mind. So, as we exited the building, I began to try to construct my response so I could just take a mindless walk. But within just a moment, my plan had dissipated into a fleeting thought. I forgot my strategy because my eye caught a glimpse of sunlight shimmering through the thick woods behind the conference center. I surmised it could only be one thing that would cause the light to behave in that manner; it had to be reflecting off of water. There must be a lake concealed somewhere through the dense tapestry of trees and foliage.

Scanning the woodlands before me, I devised a path that would lead me down to my hopeful destination. Battling cobwebs, uneven landscape and even a slithering snake (which normally would have caused me to rapidly abandon any further venture), I proceeded down through the coppices toward a hopeful destination. Surprisingly enough, I never considered abandoning my quest. I felt drawn to connect with something greater than I normally encounter.

After several minutes of tramping through the thicket, I reached the edge of a quite and relatively still lake. The water was clear enough that I could see several small-mouth bass swimming about surrounded by an innumerable amount of smaller fish. Off in the distance, a loon wailed, searching for its mate. I just stood in awe of the majesty before me…and I understood. At that moment I understood that sometimes our best plans change because they pale in comparison to another option. I understood that sometimes the best things are not clearly in front of us. I understood that sometimes we have to make our own way and blaze our own trail. I understood that sometimes, to reach our goal, we have to go through and pass around some rather unpleasant and even scary things. I understood that unplanned goals are often worth the struggle.

In just a few weeks, I will begin a new venture in life, as I will be moving away from being the pastor at Sunrise United Methodist Church to serve now with God’s good people of Yadkinville United Methodist Church. While I did know that the real possibility of being moved existed, I did not know where I would be appointed until quite recently. The move excites me and scares me at the same time. I worry, “Will they like me? Will I be able to effectively lead? Will I…?” But then, it seems God brings my thoughts back to edge of that lake, and tells me, “It’s worth the struggle.”

Being that I will be moving away from Forsyth County, this is my last column as a regular contributor to Forsyth Family Magazine. I greatly appreciate Robin Bralley for giving me this opportunity to share some musings with you each month and for your kindness in reading and responding in so many ways—how you have found them funny, wholesome and, sometimes, thought-provoking. I am still astounded by many of you recognizing and speaking to me out and about the county. As I now conclude, allow me to invite you, if you ever find yourself exploring Yadkinville, to stop by and well, let’s just sit a spell.