I set each foot down with care, remembering childhood walks with my father. He told me of how the Native braves would learn to run silently through the forest. Long ago I learned how to slip through the woods without snapping sticks or crunching leaves. Our fellowship of nine followed our guide single file over the ancient ground.
We were an unlikely party. A Native American, a war veteran, a girl from China, an inquisitive toddler, a teenage young lady who carried the legacy of her people, a white-bread married couple who gave without limits, a recent college graduate, and me. All of us... at our own individual stage in life, somehow converged in this moment to press spirit upon spirit.
We crossed under the barbed wire that marked the property line and pressed through the thorns and honeysuckle. The hillside sloped gently down underneath the cover of oak, ash, and hickory. The guide stones had let us here. This was the ancient artifact. The Shawnee Prayer Wheel.
Stones marked the four winds: North, South, East, and West. Smaller stones crossed the center both horizontally and vertically, forming a cross in the center. This was the traditional form of the wheel. This was used for communication with the One God, the Great Spirit. The Jews called Him Yahweh. The Shawnee called Him Gitche Manitou. Both identified Him as the Creator of all things and the giver of life. This was a place to be purified, to confess, and to be renewed.
Your spirit could be reclaimed here.
I was in need of my spirit to experience a renewal. I considered the scope of history here. The slamming together of perspectives. Here I was, a white man descended from those who arrived on boats, being blessed by the great humilty and grace of a man who was descended from those who had hunted and managed this land long before boats anchored ashore.
The present has an insistent way of slamming together with the past. Directly in the center of this Shawnee Prayer Wheel, verified to be from the 1700's, was a juvenile tree that grew up from its heart. It stood like a sentinel, guarding the Holy site and signifying its presence.
What are we to think of this modern intrusion into the ancient divine? Should it be plucked from the earth lest its presence shift the stones and disrupt the history here? Our wise guide told us that he had long ago considered exactly that scenario. He'd not planted the tree, but he had been watching it grow for the last ten years. While he'd ripped up by the roots thousands of young trees within the proximity of the circle, this one had been something different.
It sprouted up in the perfect center. Its roots gave stability to the symmetry of the overall structure, solidifying the geometry of the pattern, preventing a shift downhill. What seemed a modern day invasion was in fact preserving the ancient ground for future generations. Joseph was recorded in Genesis 50:20 when he said from his position of power over Egypt to the very same brothers who had sold him into slavery years before, “You meant evil against me, but God used it for good.”
I needed time to stop and consider this. God’s ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are bigger than our thoughts. I ponder my own life. My mistakes. My disappointments. And yet, there standing right in the middle of my mess… is God. Like a sentinel. Holding the ground, preserving the good for future generations. His presence gives order and meaning to it all.
I walked away from that place a little changed. My silent footsteps honored my dad and my renewed spirit honored my Father. May I continue to take each step with care, what the enemy of my soul meant for evil, God is using for good.