Stepping into the Woods


Stepping into the woods and down a narrow path of gnarled branches on both sides, within the span of a heartbeat I entered nature’s womb.   Sometimes straight, other times the trail would veer off and curve into an unbidden direction.   Though not sure what lay ahead nevertheless I walked on, held fast by its raw but tender embrace.

Wrote the psalmist, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” [2]  Though heavy-laden with grief, the tightly knit trees, and forest floor held fast incarnating the Spirit’s embrace.    Lovingly hemmed in from all sides, the sweet caress of your hand was upon me and this sojourner felt secure once more.

Creation’s Glory, be upon us this day and those ahead, we pray.   Lay your hand upon us, and smooth our furrowed brows.    Through your incarnation, surround and sustain our broken hearts, so that we may be strengthened for the work that lies before us.    For just as the path before us is uncertain, hem us in from all sides – so that whatever we say or do – will illuminate your mercy, justice, and steadfast love.  We ask all this in Christ’s name.  Amen.

[1] Photo image by Barry McArdle, Fells Reservation

[2] from Psalm 139:5

Author: Jessica McArdle

These are dark and corrosive times. As a writer and ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, I use prayer, poetry, reflection, and scripture to re-align our embattled spirits with the uniqueness and urgency of our God-given identity and call.

4 thoughts on “Stepping into the Woods”

  1. This is incredibly beautiful and also seeing the Fells reservation makes me weep remembering walking it with a dog and my best friend (who has now died) both of us with babies in Snugli’s the autumn and following spring of their births, forty-two years ago. Surely I have been hemmed in since then so securely. (I lived in Melrose for seven years serving a church there)

    1. Thank you for your words and in particular, a tender memory: hiking along the trails with a beloved friend, babies in Snugli’s, a canine companion while within the Fells reservation. It is all the more poignant knowing that your friend who accompanied you has since died. Some years back, an elderly woman whom I came to know spoke often of your ministry at Melrose. She was so grateful, as am I.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: