As the door opens a crack, a will-o-the-wisp wind curls in and fingers my hair, causing me to tug my red wool hat tighter against my head. The dog, impatient with the delay, charges past my legs and out into the skating rink that was once our driveway, frisking and bounding his delight. I snap on his leash, tuck my nose under my scarf, and head off down the road, the fuzzy one trotting purposefully beside me.
A brisk five minuteʼs walk takes us to the edge of the woods. We pause at the mouth of the trail that curves tantalizingly into the trees and out of sight. The dog sniffs an interesting rock while I stand and look.
It’s not yet dark, but the evening light, rapidly dimming, shadows the spaces between the trees with a mysterious charcoal gray. Willowy poplars with their white glimmering bark peek out between the cedar and spruce, whose graceful arms are heavy with fresh snow.
There is a regal air about these trees as they lift their heads fearlessly against the soft sky. In the blue light they are silent, authoritative, and calm yet quivering with life. My smallness is tangible in their imposing presence.
I can’t help feeling like I will be an intruder in this place. The forest belongs to the trees and their underlings, passing their time in quiet contemplation. They have no need of me. I will be only an irritant as I tickle their roots with my footsteps.
I shift my weight forward, pause, and then head down the trail, the clomping of my boots softened by the snow and melting into the stillness. The dog, pleased that we are finally in motion, snuffs the air joyously as he walks.
As we are wrapped in the dim tree-light, a mist of peace begins to steal up under my coat and wrap itself around my heart.
I didn’t have time to come here today. There were meals to cook and piles to tidy and papers to grade. I know I don’t really belong here, here among these stately trees with their well-ordered lives, these trees that have no need of the likes of me.
But I didnʼt come because the trees need me. I came because I need the trees.
I get a postcard in the mail. It invites me to a conference, to be held at nice hotel downstate, down where people lead orderly lives full of big-city opportunity. For all pastorsʼ wives, it says. To be with friends; to worship together; to share, and give, and laugh.
I imagine a roomful of women. They will be tidy, sitting up straight, sharing stories and smiling. They will be strong, composed, radiating faith and faithfulness. Wonderful women. Women who lean on each other and who hold their heads high while bowing them before their Maker.
I admire those women, who bear their loads with such grace. I look at them with awe, admiring their willing spirits and their ability to sing when the sun won’t shine. They are strong. They are brave. And they have no need of the likes of me.
I fear that I will be an intruder in this world of well-groomed, well-behaved women. They are happy as they are. What could this awkward, clumsy, untidy mess of a pastorʼs wife possibly have to add to such a company?
I pause, considering. Then, I lay my fingertips on the well-worn keys and click “Submit Registration.” A gentle peace begins to steal into my flutter bug heart.
The people of God need the people of God. I am not going to the Katie Conference because the women there need me. Iʼm going because I need them. I need to be surrounded by women who are walking my walk. I need to hear their stories and catch glimpses of lives that parallel mine, instructing, supporting, and pointing to Godʼs Word. I need to slip away from the dishes and laundry and be wrapped in the shadowy, ethereal shades of grace, its mystery deepening the more I know of it.
Iʼm tugging on my hat and going for a walk somewhere that my heart needs to be.
Maybe, Iʼll see you there.