Return to Addison’s Walk: Part One

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Me with the poem!

My first visit to Addison’s Walk (Magdalen College, Oxford) was in 2013, during my time studying abroad in the UK. I wrote about that experience a few years ago, in this post here.  Since then, my experience at Addison’s Walk has been a much beloved memory of mine – and, “What The Bird Said Early in the Year”, the poem by C. S. Lewis that hangs on a plaque within the walk, has become one of my favorite poems (though it is quite short and simple). I believe that though God is at work everywhere, He does sometimes give people specific places that are meaningful for them in their walks with Him – Addison’s Walk is definitely one of those places for me.

So, a few weeks ago, I visited Addison’s Walk again – the first time I had been there since 2013. My plan was to spend as much time as possible on the trail, just praying, listening to music, and waiting upon God. So, as soon as the walk was open to the public that day, I said a temporary farewell to my friend who was traveling with me and began my time alone with God, in eager anticipation of what He might do during that time. I fully expected God to do something – though, of course, I didn’t know what.

Sure enough, He did – there were two significant lessons I learned during my few hours in Addison’s Walk, and I am going to write about both of them on this blog. Today, I’m going to write about the first – as you’ve likely gathered by now based on the title of this post, the second lesson will be written in “Return to Addison’s Walk: Part Two”.

 

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Addison’s Walk

The first lesson I learned was actually incredibly anticlimactic. It occurred about an hour into my time on the trail, after I had already walked around for quite a while just taking in the immense beauty of the place (the pictures shared throughout this post don’t even begin to capture it!). At this point, I walked off the trail a bit towards a bench, which I thought would be a great place to just sit down and pray. However, as I got closer to the bench, I noticed that there was an elderly lady already sitting there – though, there was  also plenty of space for me to also sit down on the other side of the bench.

Very immediately, I had two conflicting feelings. First, I felt very strongly that I should go sit next to the lady, introduce myself, and begin talking to her. Second, I felt that this could be very awkward, and that I should simply ignore this feeling and wait until she left to sit down on the bench myself (or, continue down the trail and come back later). Now, I am at least familiar enough with the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life that I did know the first feeling was His prompting. And yet, the second feeling (my own human fears and logical arguments) were still getting in the way. I stood there for what had to be ten minutes mentally fighting the first prompting / trying to work up the courage to just go, sit down next to the lady, and introduce myself.

Eventually, after much deliberation and internal conflict, I did finally worked up the resolve to do what I know I was being called to do – but, just as I was about to go sit down on the bench, the lady stood up. She walked right past me, and she smiled and commented something about how the trail was dry now and in such great walking condition today. I smiled back and agreed, stating how beautiful it was. But then, she left, and kept walking. I went the opposite direction, to the now empty bench.

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My view from the bench

Since then, I’ve wondered so many times what would have happened if I’d sat down on the bench right away when I’d been called to. Maybe I was meant to help the lady in some way, or to be an encouragement to her. Maybe we were just supposed to talk. But, because I hesitated for so long, trying to decide whether or not to follow the Holy Spirit’s call, I now will never know. I missed my opportunity.

Like I said, a bit of an anticlimactic story/lesson, right? However, God being God, He taught me something incredibly significant through this whole experience. I have spent so much time since that encounter wondering what would have happened if I’d just listened to God and followed Him – and, I have realized that I never want to wonder that again. I would much rather have obeyed God, and then experienced an awkward moment when I sat down and introduced myself than have to wonder what would have happened if I’d just listened to Him. I am thoroughly convinced that anything – awkwardness, rejection, discomfort, disappointment, failure, etc. – is better than knowing you were being led by God to do something, but you didn’t do it.

So, I am resolute in my desire to not let this happen again. I want to always go when the Holy Spirit calls, speak when He leads me to speak, and do whatever it is that He has for me. I don’t want my human anxieties and overly-analytical mind to get in the way of the wonders He has in store – even if they are uncomfortable, and even if they are difficult. In a way, I am least partially glad that everything happened as it did – because, even though I know I will continue to struggle and make mistakes as I learn to follow God in everything, I will now have this experience to think back on every time I begin to hesitate when I know God is calling me to cast aside my fears and follow Him in a specific way. I know that things will not always go how I expect when I follow Him (His plans are not our plans) – but, I do know that if I simply follow Him, I will always have true peace and joy.

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Addison’s Walk: field of flowers!

Following His direction is always best, even if it doesn’t always seem like it at the time. Sometimes, the reason for Him directing us in a specific way doesn’t make sense until later – and, sometimes, we never understand the reason. I believe that sometimes, He leads and directs us in certain ways simply because He, as the perfect Father, knows exactly what we need to experience in order to grow closer to Him. Which… is kind of a segue into the second lesson I learned during my return to Addison’s Walk. I will write more about this in my next post!

 

 

 

One thought on “Return to Addison’s Walk: Part One

  1. Pingback: Return to Addison’s Walk: Part Two | Adventures of a Christian Librarian

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