We used to live next to a large area of wasteland, left to grow wild and messy and really rather glorious. All across this wasteland there was an intricate web of pathways created over the years by dog walkers and those taking a short cut from one side of the council estate to the other, and this is where we would take our Great Dane, Daisy, on her daily ‘short’ walk . The long walk was altogether more gracious, but this rough’n’ready amble was interesting enough, enjoyable enough in its own way; two dew ponds hidden by a great billow of blackberry brambles could be sheltering a heron, or a family of ducks, or an old bathtub, complete with taps. The dips and turns of the pathways would suddenly reveal a new feature of urban life – a burnt out stolen car, an abandoned old motorbike, or maybe an entire 1960’s Habitat wall unit, standing stark and upright, waiting patiently for artfully arranged vases and knick-knacks. Maybe the estate children had remembered where a roll of carpet had been dumped and had gleefully recovered it, mildew, earwigs and all, and placed it by the wall unit, and then someone had rescued an old rotting armchair from a ditch and dragged it onto the stinking carpet…. and voila! a Salvador Dali sitting room, there under the Derby sky. A playground for a generation of children and you can forget health and safety. They all survived.
We liked our wasteland. That’s where, when we were both unemployed and willing to do anything legal to save money, we spent a whole season picking blackberries, bottling and jamming and baking with them. The brambles were great tumbling clouds, high mountains of wildness, and it was frustrating to be able to pick only what we could reach, and to see the biggest fattest juiciest berries always just too high. It was tempting to reach and reach and overreach, on tip toe, to get just one more, and just one more. That’s exactly what I was doing when I lost my balance and fell slap bang into the middle of the thorns. If you’ve ever done the same you’ll know it’s not funny. It’s like being flayed by a hundred whips, grabbed by a thousand nasty little claws, and they won’t let you escape – they snatch at your clothes, pierce your skin, wrap themselves around your legs. However you turn, pain and blood, nowhere to put your hands, nowhere to kneel…. wow, it’ so unfunny.
Fortunately I was with my strong, blond, blue-eyed, Scottish, dependable and broad shouldered husband, and my lovely caring daughter.
Unfortunately they were too busy, doubled up with laughter, crying with mirth, to be any bloody use at all. Eventually, eventually, George managed to wipe away the tears and choke back the laughter, and wade in to pull me out. Eventually. Blackberry purple, blood red.
But on the whole I have very happy memories of that scrubby old piece of land. When it was time for Daisy’s walk, George would say to Lou (6) “Come on, Wheezie, let’s go exploring.” and off they’d go. As she ran ahead with Daisy she would choose the turn to the left or the right, past the pond or up the muddy track, calling back “Come on, Dad! Here’s a path no one’s ever been on before!” and he would follow faithfully, intrepid explorers. It was some years before it occurred to Lou that if there was path already, then she wasn’t the first to walk that way.
That’s like being a Christian. Well, for me, anyway. I keep discovering stuff and shouting ‘Look! Look what I’ve found!”
There’s one person in particular I shout it to, often. Someone who’s walked those paths long before I did, and gone further and explored them deeper. But I’ve chosen well, this patient soul lets me charge off, and shout back, and jabber and jump up and down, and explain how it was just sitting there… this knowledge… that I’VE discovered… this path… this realisation… THAT NO ONE’S KNOWN BEFORE! And I’m never made to feel foolish, however foolish I am.
You know, it’s great realising stuff, it’s wonderful seeing how perfect God’s truth is, and how comprehensive and complete, it’s so exciting to happen upon some beautiful jewel of God’s love – all that is adrenaline filled delight! But it’s also pretty amazing, gently reassuring and encouraging to know people who have been on that path before, to see where it took them, who they’ve become, and to know that the way is safe and proven.
Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16