The path before me was a bit muddy, but I didn’t mind – I was grateful to be walking this trail deep in the Ozark woods of Arkansas. The rain that had been falling was a welcomed sight for it was making everything in these woods vibrant with life. Wildflowers, mushrooms, & moss were showing off their brightest colors and the oaks and pine trees displayed the most verdant of branches.
I couldn’t help but stop and stare up at one such tree. As I looked up to the heights of its canopy, I also couldn’t help but feel extremely small. These giants towering over me actually seemed intimidating. “How could any living thing reach such heights,” I marveled. I smiled and took a deep breath, quoting Psalm 1:3 to myself: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,” then I continued on my way, telling the Lord that I wanted to be just that – like a tree, tall and sure. No sooner had I walked eight steps, I came across a trail marker and I stopped - dead still, astounded at what I saw. There, written on the trail marker before me, was the passage I had just quoted: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth fruit in its season” (Psalm 1:2-3). I gently laughed and shook my head, then raised my eyes towards heaven. “Okay, God,” I said, “You have my attention. I’m listening.” I took another deep breath and looked about me. I stood there like a tiny sapling in the midst of these vibrant giants and meditated on the passage, drinking in the landscape all around. “Make me like a tree, Lord, “ I prayed.
Since then, I’ve been returning to this passage in my prayer time. I have a feeling I will be parked on this trail for a while, actually. Like those muddy woods in Arkansas, there is so much to explore in this passage of scripture; so many questions to ask and truths to ponder. I love that this is how the book of Psalms – the book of the worshipper – opens: with the call to be like a tree. It’s as if the Psalmist cried out from the beginning, “If you want to worship rightly, start here. If you want the songs that follow to be pure and acceptable to God, start here: be like a tree.” He then penned:
1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
In order to be like a tree, the Psalmist makes it abundantly clear that I must guard where my counsel comes from, watch over the path I walk one, and humble myself from the judgment of others. But in order to do those things well, I must first do this: delight myself in the law of the Lord. I love that word – delight. It brings to mind smells of Autumn baking with cinnamon & spice filling the air; it brings to mind the feeling I get in my heart after a good belly laugh.
One definition that Mirriam-Webter gives for delight is, “extreme satisfaction.” It’s the exact feeling I had while walking in those muddy woods. There in the midst of God’s glorious creation, my heart felt alive with wonder and worship as I looked around at all He had made. The law of the Lord was all around me! The unfolding of His word could be seen in every vein on a leaf, every soft blade of grass. To delight in the law of the Lord is so much more than opening your bible and reading the text – it’s finding His words everywhere you look: in the cold creek running beside the trail, in the sound of the baby’s laughter down the hall, or in the face of the cashier checking you out at the grocery store. Too many distractions pull us away from delighting in the simplicity of God's goodness. Cynicism runs rampant in our news outlets, social media posts, and conversations around the water cooler. This cynical attitude creeps into our meditations and musings and, often, without even knowing it, the delight of the Lord is crowded out of our heart. God wants to take us all back to our own version of a muddy Ozark forest to remind us how to reconnect with wonder.
Those woods didn't simply make me feel alive because God's glory was displayed there; they also made me feel alive because God made me - as a unique individual - to love nature. In order for me to be kept from the path of the cynical sinner, I must return to the things for which God made me. Delighting in what God made me to do is actually vital to delighting in Him. How? Stick with me and I'll explain.
Walking in those woods reminded me that I had relegated the simple things I loved to an "extracurricular" category; nonsense that I could pull out and enjoy if I had the time. But God made me to be in nature. He made me to pick up rocks and study their contours, to listen to bird songs and try to distinguish their author. Because God made me to do these things, it is all counted as worship to Him whenever I embrace them as a lifestyle. For some it may be getting back to the love of painting. For others, it may be enjoying a baseball game with friends. But I know we each have a "delight" that the Lord will use to heal the cynicism within us. And the more healed we are, the more we will delight in Him.
I want to be like a tree and that begins with me living a life of delighting in God. Those woods have reminded me that if I will take the time to slow down and look all around me, I can find His handiwork everywhere I go. Delight is everywhere. Could there be any satisfaction greater than this?