It was the second day we were in Trinidad. I remember we were living out of a hotel, or maybe an apartment in the shadow of a mountain. I vaguely remember the hotel being blue. My mom, brother and I decided to hike the mountain, because all that was on TV was Sesame Street and we needed to get out. We went down to a diner outside of the hotel, and I ate a sandwich and fries and then we walked up to the mountain. I say mountain, it is probably technically a hill, but when you are in first grade and from Oklahoma, anything taller than a two-story house is a mountain. We walked up the road that led about halfway to the top and we found a random playground with slides and swings and a sandbox. I played in the sandbox and I remember the “sand” was actually dirt. Red dirt. It was very much like the red dirt we have in Oklahoma. Anyway, I decided to make a sand/red dirt castle, which soon turned into a sand/red dirt sea lion/seal balancing a ball on its nose. Then, out of nowhere, it began to rain.
We went back up the mountain a few days later, and my sea lion/seal had a nice footprint smashed into it, and I didn’t feel like rebuilding it. This hill seemed to be at the center of the city we lived in, San Fernando, and it was around this hill that some of my most memorable moments occurred while living in Trinidad. There was a revival of sorts held at the foot of the hill that my church put on one week. My mom, brother and I climbed the hill every couple of weeks it seemed.
I remember there always being a part of the hike where we would stop and rest on this big rock. What I assume to be vultures, or vulture-like creatures would be circling above, and my brother would razz me to not stay motionless for too long or they might come swoop down on me. The VLC (vulture-like creatures) always seemed to be circling this one area about 60 yards from where we would rest. A narrow path lined by dense trees led to a secluded part of the mountain. I was always terrified of this place, even while we were just taking a break it was overwhelmingly creepy. In my opinion, that place where the VLC were circling may as well have been called death.
One of the last times we climbed the hill before we moved back, I dared myself to walk down the path and get to the other side, the side where the VLC were circling. I didn’t get very far before I chickened out and ran back to the big rock.
We all have this place in our lives, right?
A place of fear and death? A place in our hearts that goes un-researched and uncharted? A place of death? A place we have no intentions of going to, a place that is undiscovered. A place that gives you the chills even from a distance, even from the very thought of what lurks down the path.
We have this place in our lives, right?
That place where vultures circle and is surrounded by dark forests on either side. The place you won’t enter because you are too afraid.
I’m not talking about the hill anymore am I? I am talking about your heart/soul. I am referring to you spirituality, and we are looking into our own guts together. What lies on the other side of the path? What dead carcass from our past the vultures are circling?
I assure you this, in life we will fail, and parts of us will die. I laid in bed last night thinking about all the mistakes I have made in the last few years, and how in all probability those carcasses will come back to haunt me. Perhaps they already do, and I laid there thinking about how those carcasses caused the vultures to circle, and how those places in my guts are dead now. Dead to feeling, and dead to hope.
Before I get too depressing about the way life works, I suppose hope should enter the scene here.
You know, Jesus came and died for those places in our lives. Psalm 103:12 says that our sins are forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west. But for me, the east meets the west where the vultures circle.
I heard somewhere that scar tissue is actually thicker and stronger than normal tissue. Scar tissue, while painful and full of memories, is actually stronger than our own flesh.
It was these places that vultures circle, that God himself entered in. God, in the form of a Savior, walked the long dark path and entered in to that place. He put up a cross on that place and He died on that place. Later, He would come back to that place and pick up His cross again and take it to the next place where vultures are circling in our lives and do it all over again. In Malachi 4, it says that Jesus would be coming with “healing in his wings”, and I feel that is precisely what He has done ever since He died and rose again. While these areas of vultures still exist in our lives, the wound is ready to be healed, it is just waiting on us to stop picking the scab. The place where vultures circle is ready to be defeated, it is just waiting on us to make the long lonely walk to pick up our own cross on the mountain, the one Jesus left there for us after He took His.
The great thing about Christ is that He came to set us free, but not to make it easy. He came to give us new life, but we cannot have a new life without getting rid of the old life. New life sounds great, but old life feels familiar, and even though there are parts where the vultures circle, the majority of it is just a nice hike. Your adventure with Christ is waiting on new life, and it’s waiting on healing. We will never be forgiven until we face the carcasses and take care of them. We wont be forgiven until we stand under the circling vultures and give them the finger and move on.