Close to the Source

by Dr. Ray Wheeler


One of the many things that my wife and I enjoy is riding bikes.  Our home is about a block off of the Greenway and we have ridden many miles of this beautiful trail.  During this time of social distancing, being outside on a walk or bike ride has been important to our mental health.

I had done a little riding before Pam and I met.  I was challenged to be more active during a nutrition and healthy living course that the staff at FUMC had taken as a group.  My answer to that challenge was to ride my son’s bike from our home to the church, about a mile and a quarter ride.  The bike route I took was exactly the same one I drove by car every day.  But the experience of riding a bike was remarkably different.  Hearing the birds, noticing the trees, and the flowers changed my perspective.  This short ride opened my eyes to the rich beauty around me.  Since Pam and I have been together, we have ridden hundreds of miles and it remains a great pleasure.

One of our favorite rides is one we call“The Willow Ride.”  Just about a quarter of a mile north of the Home Depot store just off the trail is a beautiful area where about thirty weeping willow trees seem to march in a line.  We have biked to this area many times and I always like to pause there and take in the beauty.  There is a sitting area there with a roundabout, so it is a great place to take a break.  I like to stop there on early morning rides when the light is golden and the lacy leaves shimmer in the breeze.  Last July, the day before I had ankle replacement surgery, the last ride we took was to visit the willows and, months later, the first ride I took when I was able was to this special place.

When I first rode past this stand of willows, I remember wondering why so many of these trees had grown up in a row.  When we stopped and I looked closer, I realized that all of these trees were growing on the banks of a small creek.  This is why they seem to be marching across the landscape.  Willows need plenty of water to thrive and these willow trees grow close to their source.  I started thinking about how this relates to us as followers of Christ.  What I have found over the years, is like these trees, I have always been nourished by my Source.  Put another way, the eternal God in the form of the Holy Spirit has always been close.   Sometimes I may forget who and where I am.  Circumstances may inhibit my awareness.  Stress and worry about a worldwide pandemic may distract me momentarily.  But with just a slight turning of my intention and my attention, I find the comfort of the Holy Spirit as close as my breath.  There is a poem by the twelfth-century mystic Rumi which I think expresses this idea beautifully:

“When you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes
In the thought of looking, nearer to you than yourself,
or things that have happened to you

There’s no need to go outside.
Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.”

When you seek God, remember that God is never far away. Know that you are a beloved Child. God is with us, closer than we can imagine. You are close to your Source!

Grace & Peace,