There was a time working for the hunting outfit east of Atlin, northern BC, when I felt very lonely. It was just after the third hunt of the season. I was situated at the isolated Lincoln Lake camp. The weeks of the third hunt had been filled with laughter and good company. The guides and hunters were really great and lots of animals were brought in which made for a very happy and successful hunt and then . . . they all left. And I was left alone in the cabin and a spirit of depression descended.
Being a bit of a writer, I turned to journaling out my feelings of loneliness and was in the middle of asking God where he was, when I heard the horses outside stirring and whinnying. I saw a flash of white and brown out my front window and I jumped up from the table, to look out and make sure one of the jingle horses hadn’t broke loose. Instead I saw a little bull caribou run right in front of the cabin with his nose high in the air dodge left then right before taking the path down to the lake. Without hesitation he hopped right in and started swimming. He swam south for a ways and turned east and headed straight across the lake. Only his head and horns were visible as he huffed his through the blue waters.
I was filled with delight! And with a rush, I knew that I wasn’t alone. God was near and he had sent that little bull to lift my spirits. I returned to journaling and instead of the “woe is me” phrases I was praising the wonders of my God.
Fast forward a number of years and I’m saying prayers with my son at bedtime. After we said Amen, he looks up at me and says, “Mom I talk to God but I’ve never ever heard him talk back. And I’ve never even seen Him.” Well what do you say to that when often I struggle with the same thing. I talk to God all the time too and I can’t say I’ve ever heard Him with my ears or seen Him with my eyes. People talk all the time about how they “hear God telling them to do this or that” or you read the Bible and you see stories upon stories of people getting to meet with God or talk to Him or hear from Him. And I don’t. And probably many people out there who pray probably don’t. Not in that way.
Is God nearer to others than He is to some–to me? Am I not praying with enough faith or am I not dedicated enough? Am I just not special enough?
And I hear about people who when praying have gold dust flying about them and I read about people who pray and their hands start shimmering and I wonder in that secret place inside, “Why God? Why don’t you meet with me in that way? Why can’t I just hear from you in such a way that I will never doubt again?”
And then I remembered the little bull caribou at Lincoln Lake. I remembered how I felt before I saw him, I recalled what I was praying–in fact I can point to the spot in my journal where it says “Where are you God –––“ with a big scrawl mark from being disturbed by the commotion outside. And then I see what I wrote after watching the caribou swimming across the lake–the praise and worship of my Creator and Savior.
And looking back I remember other times too. Times when I was at a loss, lonely, scared, upset, desperate to know if I mattered, if God was really near, if He was really listening and I could remember other unique instances of wildlife immediately showing up and lifting my spirits, or a sunset that just took my breath away, or a rainbow that came out at just the right time, and I realized I don’t need gold dust or halos. God has met me every time I asked–just not in the way I was expecting. I was just not aware. Once I could point to those moments in my life when I just KNEW God was near, I could see how God WAS active in my life. And I was quick to recognize and acknowledge the next time it happened, that He still IS active.
So my appeal for others desperate to know God is near, or desperate to hear God speak to them is, don’t let another person’s experiences dictate to you how God should respond to you personally, because God IS personable and what is one way for one is different to another. And this is amazing! If you don’t feel God is near, don’t just keep shuffling along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right under your nose. Lift up your head. Become watchful. God is nearer than you think and He will appeal to you in a way you can understand if you only look for it. It may not look or sound like anything you previously expected or heard how others experience Him, but He promises to come near to you as you come near to Him.
If you are troubled, call out to Him. When you are delighted by Him, sing out His praises.
It’s what people have been doing for centuries and the Bible records many people calling out to God in desperation and singing out in joy. And Every. Single. Time. He responds differently–unique to that person.
To Job with a violent storm. To Moses with a burning bush. To Jonah with a big fish. To Daniel with dreams and angels. To Elijah with a whisper. To a blind man with mud and spit. To Paul with visions. To Peter and the apostles with tongues of fire. There are so many more examples. I could go on forever. These are just the ones off the top of my head from the Bible. If I could go even beyond that to people throughout the generations . . . Wow!
So why oh why do we always try to reduce God to sameness? To formulas? To boxes? Why do we expect God to show up the same as He did for so and so, or do for another what He did for us? Why can’t we rejoice in the uniqueness how He works and how He speaks and how He reveals? Let us tell each other our personal one-of-a-kind stories and celebrate the myriad of ways God relates to all people! What this tells us is that God is not confined to only one method, only a few “tricks up His sleeve”, only a couple re-courses. A miracle is a miracle because it was thought previously impossible. If God kept doing the same miracle over and over again, it would no longer be a miracle or worth talking about.
So maybe my caribou jumping in the lake is no burning bush experience, but really it doesn’t matter how small ordinary that moment is in comparison–when God comes near, it’s pretty darn special.
“3God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough.
There are no boundaries to his greatness.
4 Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;
each one tells stories of your mighty acts.
16Generous to a fault,
you lavish your favor on all creatures.
17 Everything God does is right—
the trademark on all his works is love.
18 God’s there, listening for all who pray,
for all who pray and mean it.
19 He does what’s best for those who fear him—
hears them call out, and saves them.
20 God sticks by all who love him,
but it’s all over for those who don’t.
21 My mouth is filled with God’s praise.
Let everything living bless him,
bless his holy name from now to eternity!” Psalm 145 (MSG)