I set my alarm to get up early on Saturday morning. My daughter wanted to go on an owl hunt. I had been enthusiastically telling her for the last few weeks about the owls I regularly see on my commute to and from work along Highway 11. And now that she was home in Lac du Bonnet for the weekend, she had decided it was her turn to get a glimpse and some photos of the majestic great grey owls I meet on my route.
Out we ventured with her camera gear, bundles of winter clothing, and a thermos of hot chocolate. As we drove along, I pointed out the different areas where I have previously spotted owls. But this morning, the hydro poles and tree line were void of the familiar shape we were seeking.
We drove as far as St. Georges on our quest before turning around at the boat launch. It was now beginning to snow and we both fought off the tinges of disappointment that were beckoning us to call our excursion a failure.
I wasn’t ready to give up. Not only on the owl hunt, but also on this undisturbed, undistracted time together. My daughter mentioned that her neighbour in Winnipeg had recently seen an owl at Blueberry Rock. That became our next destination.
We pulled into the empty trailhead parking lot. I grabbed my toque and mitts, triple checked that my car keys were safely zipped into my coat pocket and stepped onto the trail. Almost instantly I was covered with the nurturing stillness and harmony of a refreshing winter morning. And snowflakes. Nothing glistened and sparkled. It was gray and cloudy. But wondrous nonetheless.
I followed my daughter along the trail. She, with her camera ready to capture something, but not quite knowing what it might be. Me, my soul expectantly waiting for that magical moment. My eyes were constantly scanning the trees and bush in search of an owl. We never did find one. But I did find an hour of delightful tranquility.
I saw things that I never would have noticed if I was just watching the path ahead of me. There was a promise of possibility. I searched for beauty in the winter desolation and I found it. My eyes were open. My heart was open. And God filled it. With a silent whisper I invited God into the depleted space within my soul and He gently and graciously nourished it as only He can.
It didn’t matter that my surroundings were colourless and lifeless. Had I left the trail to stand among the trees, we would have been unified in our dormancy. Tired and waiting for the growth and rejuvenation of a new season. I found hope there in the bleakness.
I was content. My heart was more at peace than it has been for a very long time. I wondered if this was what God’s perfect peace was like. At a recent prayer meeting I attended, someone had shared this scripture:
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. About perfect peace. About absolute, complete, indescribable peace. It sounds great, but well, like a wistful dream. And yet … God will keep me in that condition?! Yes. This is a promise. But … there’s always a catch. And that catch is me. I must fully trust God and keep my thoughts continually fixed on Him. I may say that I trust God, and I may even believe that I do. But if I find the idea of perfect peace unimaginable then the logical explanation is that my attention has wandered from God’s flawless face and become focused on my own blemished reflection.
As the end of our outing neared, we took some last special minutes to drink our hot chocolate and pose together for photos in the parking lot snowbank. My daughter and I created memories that morning that I already cherish. God and I did too as He met me in that place and led me through a very needed soul refreshing morning of perfect peace.
I went looking for an owl but came home with a better, unexpected gift. A glimpse into the heart of God.
“My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid”. John 14:27