I run most every day on the Mill Creek Trail. Most days I can make it five or six miles along Mill Creek on a paved pathway made for bikers and foot traffic. Late this spring I was running one afternoon, and we had just had several days of rain. I was crossing through a low Meadow with a bridge over the creek that runs right alongside the railroad tracks. For about two hundred yards the trail is flanked by a fence on either side. It’s an old wire mesh fence built to keep cows off the trail. Evidently the Creek had flooded during the previous rain because dead leaves and branches were stuck to this wire fence at least 30 inches up, sometimes covering the whole fence.
That was months ago and I’ve been watching the leaves every day since then. Everything was so green and lush. In Kansas the grass always greens up a few weeks before the weeds start growing, so there is this window of time where everything looks like the garden of Eden. But, as I said, that was months ago.
We haven’t had any significant rain in over a month. Last week we got just a little bit one day, but it didn’t even make a dent. Everything looks dry and withered, tortured by weeks upon weeks over hundred degree temperatures. The desiccated plants lack the moisture to even raise their weary leaves toward the sun. They simply hang there perishing in the heat.
It was a sad run today, watching everything die before its time. In the fall we celebrate as we watch the leaves turn and fall as the land goes into hibernation. Today, it looked like death came too early in the cycle of life. The ground was covered with dead brown crunchy leaves.
St. Augustine had a similar experience. He was in a complete physical and emotional breakdown. Through his tears and cries he heard school children repeating a rhyme, “take it and read it.” He took this as a sign from God, and gave himself over to the scriptures. Take it and read it – that did it for him.
I’ve been thinking about my friends who are struggling. It seems as though far too many of the people I really care about are hanging on by a thread right now. Everywhere I look it’s as though our souls have mirrored the dying landscape. I’m reminded of Psalm 1, and the simple wisdom that a tree planted by a stream will never wither. Even if the stream dries up, the roots have grown way down deep where there is still enough water to get by. I’m reminded that this is the role the scriptures must play in the life of a believer.
No one can live by bread alone, but they need the words that come from the self-revealing God. The bible is the stream. I’m watching my friends struggle, and I know that they nourish their souls with everything else: food, entertainment, knowledge, beer, shopping, diversions, distractions, drama… but not the scriptures, and every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It is no wonder our souls are withering. I know that no one lives by the word of God alone either, but it’s got to be in the mix. The scriptures simply have to become part of the way we meet reality, the way we encounter our lives. The scriptures are meant to be the stream by which our lives become planted. Yet, we ignore them… to our own detriment.
So today I’m just putting in a plug for the scriptures. If you are hurting this is where you begin. If you are jaded, then just start with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and don’t think about it too much, just read. If you are desperate, then read the Psalms and you will soon understand why you are reading them. The bible is the ultimate story. It’s not just a story, it’s the story. It’s not just the story, it’s our story. If your life is withering, if your soul is desiccated, if your heart is dry and dusty and falling apart this is where you begin: take it and read it.