by guest blogger Bonnie Hyatt
It was the late 1980’s. I had begun going back to church and it started a journey of finding peace and healing from childhood trauma. I was attending an "Opening to Grace" retreat in Pennsylvania with Rev. Tilda Norberg, founder of Gestalt Pastoral Care. The accommodations were charming, an old 1960s mobile home with rooms added on. There was a warm and welcoming spirit that greeted me at the door.
During a break on the second day, a few of the women decided to go to a nearby waterfall at a place
called Child’s Park. I remember thinking how apropos, seeing I was there to explore healing from my
childhood. Never having been there before, I asked to go along. Arriving at the parking lot, we walked down a small incline under a forest of pine trees. As we stood on a path with a lively stream nearby,
I sensed everyone wanted to be in their own space. I asked what time we had to meet, then went off to go explore. It was one of those end-of-winter days where the sun is warm on your face and you know winter is fading. Having the stream on my right, I began downhill, stopping often to savor nature. The trees seemed to bend over the stream in reverence to its power and beauty. I smelled the leaves on the ground as they began to defrost from the cold. As I walked, the shade gave way to circles of warm sunlight. I stopped at times to warm myself. The stream meandered along with me, sometimes close, at times behind a wooden railing.
I chuckled to discover a park bench in the middle of the forest. It was perched on a ridge above the path. The bench invited me to stop and sit a spell. Resting there, I found myself in a rhythm of praying, being still, and savoring the sounds around me. I spent some time pondering if I had the courage to open old wounds.
Why was I going to church again? What am I, a Presbyterian, doing in a Methodist Church? Was God going to be there with me? Was Jesus really the divine healer? Could I allow myself to be that
vulnerable? Sensing it was time to continue, I thanked the bench for its company.
I continued in the opposite direction – up stream, uphill. I passed my starting point, and to my surprise and enjoyment I found the waterfall a short distance ahead. I stood there watching all the melted winter snow surge down the falls, crashing into a small pond. My walk continued, and so did the inner questions.
I noticed large rocks near the path that formed the border of the pond, and I found two exceptionally large flat boulders with just the right amount of incline. With the sun beating on them, I couldn’t resist. Using my scarf as a pillow, I lay there. I had the warmth of the stone on my back and just enough sun on my face. Closing my eyes, I listened more intently to the sound of the crashing falls, wind on my face, birds around me, and occasional voices as they passed on the path. When the wind changed direction, I felt just a touch of mist from the falls. I needed to check my watch and was delighted to see that God had slowed the time down just for me. Reluctantly, I left my stone sanctuary.
My walk took me to the top of the falls. I stood watching the falls cascade into the pond below. I circled back down stream again. I still do not know how I passed it before, but there it was, a wooden bridge to the other side of the stream. I came to the center of the bridge, and looking downstream, I watched the water run over and around the rocks that jutted out. I enjoyed watching people walking along the trails. I turned around and leaned on the bridge railing upstream facing the waterfalls. I watched the waterfalls, and I spotted the flat rocks I had visited. The path seemed to have more visitors now.
The inner questions continued. Was Jesus calling me to begin this healing journey? Was God going to be there? Was Jesus really the divine healer? Looking straight down into the water, I spotted a branch that had fallen. I suppose it was stuck under a rock. As I watched it, at times it was sticking above the water, and at times it was pulled under by the current. Always, always, returning above the water.
I realized that my young life was like that small branch. Always something trying to pull me under physically, mentally, or spiritually. As I stood with the peace of Christ in my heart and tears running down my face, I realized it was God’s prevenient grace that saved me back then. I had an inner assurance that God, through the Holy Spirit, will be with me through this healing journey, and Jesus IS the divine healer.
My journey of healing has taken many paths and it continues even today. I have been back many times to Child’s Park. The branch is gone, I guess it knew it was time to let go and move on.