Night will fall but I will not be afraid when I dwell in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 91:4)
I remember leaving our overnight camp early that morning. It was overcast, but you could tell that the clouds would burn off by mid-morning. I bid farewell to my companion whose knee had given way the previous day, swinging the small backpack onto my shoulders as I disappeared into the dry bush.
Before long the trail hit the looming rockface of the Mt Difficult range and I picked my way up the steep incline, over rock and boulder alike. Walking alone wasn’t something I was used to, or that comfortable with, but setting my own quick pace was a rare privilege and soon I’d climbed onto the plateau. There’s always a sense of wonder as I approach Gariwerd by car – this is magnified as you walk amongst the rocky escarpments that stretch on and on. I gazed at my map, got my bearing from the compass draped over my neck and turned left to start the long clockwise loop around the rocky range. The sun was starting to beat by now, from above and below as the thermal mass of the rocks beneath me began to radiate heat. As there was no real trail to follow, I walked from cairn to cairn, carefully locating the next mound of rocks by sight before leaving the one I was standing beside. I was at peace. The land was at peace.
As I walked along the rocks, leaving not even footprints behind, I sensed a presence behind me. There was no sound, I was alone, but I became suddenly aware that something had joined me on the trail. I cautiously craned my head to the left, without slowing my foot falls, and gazed into the eyes of a wedge tail eagle that floated mere metres above and behind me. We took each other in, shared a moment of connection, and then the thermals caught those powerful wings and she soared slowly away, higher but seemingly with one eye on me for some time.
By now I’d slowed to a stop and gazed at God’s creation, flora, fauna and age old country. I wondered why I wasn’t alarmed by our close encounter – it seemed my flight, fright, freeze mechanism had failed me on this occasion. Perhaps because I’d been deeply drawn into the presence of God and had felt the grace that this brings.
Later that day, I made a wrong turn then a series of stupid decisions, and found myself well off the track, in the middle of the bush, in the middle of winter, in the late afternoon, with little food and with no discernible way of finding my way off the mountainside safely before darkness. Suffice to say that my amygdala did activate this time around and I cried out to be in God’s presence once again.
Some might say it was a combination of calming my mind, interpreting my map, and following my compass bearing for about two kilometres through the rough undergrowth that got me back to an established path that I could follow. Perhaps. However, I feel that I was being watched and held all day – from the fauna above my head to the rocks beneath my feet. I arrived back at the security of our campsite after sunset, but before dusk. Relief coursed through my body and I thanked my God for taking me on that journey of mind, body and soul. Ω
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together daily stories and images from people in the congregation which are focused on God in this place. Why this theme? Read this! #Lent2023. Our Spiritual Geography © Sanctuary, 2023. Sanctuary is based on Peek Whurrong country. Full acknowledgement of country here.
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