Monday, March 3, 2008

You Call Me Your Friend

January 6, 1996:

It’s a cold January day. I’ve been hiking for ten hours or so, but I’m still excited about the path ahead. The trail is clear, a cruel slash across the remote wilderness slope, outlined under the snow. But as I gain altitude the snow is deepening—I don’t think I can reach the ridgeline above me as long as winter’s frigid grip conceals the rocky terrain.

These are the Inyo Mountains, rising to 10,000 feet. They say there are a few ancient bristlecone pines near the top, trees 2,000 years old and more. If I could just reach one today… Maybe I’ll feel better if I touch a creature that was alive when Jesus walked this planet. Oh, so long ago…

It’s sheer folly for me to be up here, according to the campers in the desert below. Less than two dozen people hike here each year, along these 150-year-old trails carved during a long-forgotten gold rush. If something happens to me they’ll find my body here in May, during the hiking season. So be it.

If I could find food up here I’d have little reason to go back down. My life out there lies in hopeless ruin. I’ve lost my family, my home, my job. The world has set me out at the curb with the trashcans, but the trash man has refused to pick me up. Strife and violence have been following me, and I’m not going back there.

I’ve gone back to reading my Bible. It’s been helping a little. I remember that it used to be my friend. I think there was a time when I felt closer to God, but I can’t seem to bring back that feeling. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had anyone I could call a friend.

The snow is now reaching two feet in depth—it’s tiring to slog through it. I won’t be able to go much farther. And I need to set up camp before the light fades. I look up the trail; maybe I’ll go a few hundred more yards.

A tree stands beside the trail a hundred yards ahead. It is ramrod straight, with branches reaching out on each side like the father welcoming the prodigal son. Or like the cross. As I draw closer I see that the tree is ancient, weatherworn and hardened. It stands downslope by the trail like a lone sentry, guarding, watching, checking passersby.

An aura seems to envelop the tree—almost a glow. What might this tree have seen as it stood here over the centuries? If it could speak, what stories could it tell? Could this be one of those trees that were living 2,000 years ago?

For some reason I reach out for the tree’s outstretched limb. I just want to shake hands with something that has seen so much, endured so much, and still lives.

And the Lord Jesus Christ reaches back to me… And shakes my hand… And says to me…

Hello, Rolin. I’m so glad to see you. I’ve been waiting for you…
for 2,000 years.

My body tingles, as if my skin were sparkling. No speech is possible.
The Creator of the Universe has just taken time out to speak to me.
I stand awestruck.

Jesus has been waiting for me?

That was twelve years ago. That spring I gave my whole life to Jesus. I gave up all claim to my life and gave it to my Lord, to do with however he pleased. Now I will always know what it is like to have a friend, for Jesus calls me his friend. .....(John 15:12-15)

Jesus is waiting for you too, my friend. He is stretching out his hand to you, beckoning with open arms. He gave up his life for you, so that you could come to him and be his friend.

Won’t you reach out to him today?