All my life I’ve been a seeker. I’ve always wondered about God and prayed, and hoped to follow in faith. But as anyone who is a seeker knows, the path is never straight, and many times we can seem to be more lost than found! It’s often this feeling of being lost that keeps us searching.
Maybe it’s the seeker in me that has made me into a birder. When Lyle and I go bird watching, Lyle carries the camera and I the binoculars, and our search is not usually in vain. When we get home and the camera lens helps us zoom in even more, we are always stunned at the gorgeous offerings nature has for us, just outside our door. God’s designs are exquisite!
There is something the camera lens does not
capture, however, and that is the long intervals between any bird sightings. Birders walk with their ears tilted and eyes constantly scanning for signs of a passing bird. When one is heard or even luckier, seen, the hunt begins in earnest, but much of birding is non-eventful.
One might think these uneventful intervals would make any birder dis-inclined to continue, but I find the opposite is true. The hope of finding treasure makes the walk worthwhile. Even when we have seen not much more than a Canada goose or the ubiquitous house sparrow, we go home undeterred, hopeful and a bit more alert than before. The quest keeps us happy and is one of those pursuits that gives us a focus beyond ourselves, something every relationship needs.
The interior life of faith can be much the same. Many times, the way is unclear and we wonder why God seems absent. My friend Paul talks about “mud days” – when we feel murky and prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling back down to us. We can become disheartened if we don’t see much beyond our own noses. These are the days we can become lost.
But, like in birding, seeing or hearing God can change everything. Even the memory of such a time can keep us on the path. I believe it happens to everyone, not just those who call themselves Christians. Sometimes it happens in prayer, during a conversation with a friend, or while reading. Sometimes it can happen in a dream, during a quiet walk in nature or when we see loving actions in the world. There are so many ways that God can become clear to us. Like we used to teach our son Joel when he was little, “God is everywhere.”
The great challenge for us seekers is learning to figure out if it’s God we’re seeing and hearing, or our own desires. In my experience, it’s all about trust and being in community with like-minded folks who listen alongside me. We’re all listening together. We make mistakes, but listening through scripture, reading, prayer and talking to each other has proved to be more dependable than not.
I’m also learning that God is always revealed in a different way than I expect. There’s a story in the Old Testament of the prophet Elijah, who was running for his life and struggling to understand what God wanted. God didn’t speak to him in a great wind, or an earthquake or in a fire. Instead, God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice. (1 Kings 19:12)
Lately, I’d been hearing some prompting from God in answer to a question I’d been having in prayer. The “still, small voice” left me in fear, despite assurances from friends that all would be well. Driving home in the car, these lyrics from Needtobreathe’s song “Valley of Tomorrow” perked my ears:
“I never second-guessed the little voice I heard
It’s just a whisper, that sounded like a scream
I ain’t never felt so free.”
I remembered my friend Bev who had heard a quiet voice one morning this week. She had told us her story just that morning during our house church’s Sunday service. Wrapped up in worry, she was coming home from the gym when she heard a distinct Word within that told her, “You weren’t made for this.” She realized her worries were not the last word. She is made for love, for freedom, for her walk with God and God’s people, not for the worries that enslaved her. She was freed by what she heard. As I listened to the CD in the car, I was nudged to remember that I too could trust the quiet voice within.
It’s Words like these that are like bird sightings, quickening my step on the path. God is here, no doubt, infusing each experience, especially the difficult ones, with a way through that has meaning and hope.