On my mountain hikes, I often see some things that really are there but not really. This photo of the lethal Bear Trap Tree depicts one of my “there but not really” sightings.
I took this photo in August while hiking in Shenandoah National Park. The tree, poplar, I think—was growing on the embankment up from the trail. I noticed it across the way as I sat resting. The tree most definitely really was there.
Maybe it was the morning sunlight highlighting the burls grouped together near the base or the way the moss on the largest burl looked like a fuzzy tummy that suddenly brought to life what actually was not there: a bear trapped inside the tree! Once that image took root in my mind, it was all I could see.
Thus, the elaborate description I attached to the photo when I posted it on Facebook. Friends knew it could not really be real, and yet . . . Between the image now implanted in their minds, too, and the straightforward description I added, a few folks were not so sure whether I was pulling their leg or if there really is such a thing as the lethal Bear Trap Tree. Fun!
Not all imagined things “there but not really” are delightful and amusing. We go through events that really are there. We know they’re real because we’re in the thick of them ourselves. Our minds, though, conjure frightening images out of those events, and fear doggedly takes hold of us. The frightening image now is all we can see, and fear now is all we can feel, regardless of what rational thought might otherwise assure us.
We are in a season of change at University Baptist Church, a season cast in God’s light which guides us, but which also means there will be shadows. Where light and shadow interplay, imaginings can turn anxious. Discerning what is “really there” and what is not there becomes difficult. The light is God’s grace illuminating the way before us. Seeing by the light of God dispels what shadows may try to fold themselves into fearful patterns that rob us of confidence.
Our Stewardship Theme this month, based on Ephesians 3:20-21, is “A Future Richer than Our Dreams, More Fruitful than Our Hopes, And More Beautiful than Our Imaginations”. Our confidence through this season of change rests in God who really is here among us at UBC and who really is working out a good future for us. Be confident. Be encouraged. Be faithful in discerning and “imagining into” God’s future for the UBC family.
Your Senior Minister in the Interim,