The other day my family and I were doing an outdoorsy cabin-on-the-lake thing for a couple of days. I admit that I’m more of an indoor girl. I joke that if there isn’t a number on the door, I am not interested. I do love nature, natural beauty, and quiet reflection, but I also like running water, fragrant lotions, and nice restaurants.
So, yeah, I’m (a fish out of water) at the cabin and it’s time to go hike. I donned my running shoes and yoga pants and went for a two mile easy walk. It was still in the cool of the morning as I ambled along, so the hike was wonderfully restorative. I took a bazillion pictures as per usual because I just can’t get over the Spanish moss hanging down from huge southern trees and the other stunning vegetation in my new Alabama home. We walked about two miles in total. After the hike and some other mucking around, we ate lunch. Then we went to the Nature Center at the park so we could ask some questions of the park rangers (home school never stops). I was interested in the different plants that I had seen along the path and wanted to know about the wildlife that is so foreign to me in my now native state. The very nice and helpful gal there suggested that our family take another hike that included alligators and a butterfly garden (swoon). So I jumped up and down and tried to rally my pretty tired troops for another 4 mile (e-hem) walk. I thought we’d be fine. The morning hike had gone smooth. It had been lovely in fact. Why not double the distance for an even better time?
At a little after noon, we got out of the car and started walking at the trail head. Instead of being in the shade like we had been in the morning, we were in the full afternoon Alabama sun- about 90 degrees and crazy humidity. Foolishly we took no water with us. At mile one I began to do my best cheerleading moves (now 3 total miles walked for the day) because my Noah was choking back tears from exhaustion. I made bad jokes. I sang and tried to distract with stories and silliness. I pointed to turtles, cactus, and wildlife. That worked for a bit, but my children were tired and thirsty. I couldn’t wait to get to the half way point (mile 2 on the trail) because we knew from the map that there was a restroom with a drinking fountain.
Finally the family got to the halfway point with blessed water. We rested there for a full 30 minutes because I wanted to rehydrate Zoe and Noah. I made the kids drink and drink and drink feeling like a total failure as a mom. I kept sending them back to the fountain because I was fearful they would get sun headaches or worse get truly over heated walking the rest of the way. I soaked my hair to try and lesson the effect of the relentless sun. Then we could put it off no longer- it was time to do the final 2 miles.
At mile 3 I started to pray. I was totally tanked out. My kids and I began to say scripture out loud. We sang spiritual songs- they’d sing a phrase, then I’d sing a phrase. I looked up at the mocking cloudless sky and tried to breathe away the subtle panic in my veins. At one point I had to stop and sit because I began to see stars and feel faint.
Slowly and all at once, I began to comprehend that God was showing me something. I was walking out a parable. For the first time I could understand what it might be like to be truly thirsty- to be trapped in a dry desert place with no water.
Before I moved to southern Alabama, I prayed specifically for a closet. My own closet. I wanted a place that I could sit each morning to bare my soul and cry out to the Lord. I had no idea how Jesus would accomplish this because, well, we were working with a very limited budget. An individual closet seemed rather far fetched in natural terms. However, I knew my God was big enough to handle such a small request.
I was still working in Indiana when Jason found a place for the family to live. So, the day we moved in, I saw the home for the first time. I was astonished to find Jack and Jill closets. I had my own closet separate from Jason! (I hadn’t told hubby that I wanted a prayer closet, because it sounded weird and I didn’t want to pressure him to find something so specific.) Prayer answered! Praise the Lord!
I have several pieces of paper taped to the door of my closet with names of loved ones and lost souls that need the Savior. I also have these verses:
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
There on that hot and dry path as I pushed to finish, when my tongue stuck to my lips and my legs began to fail, I looked up to the heavens and thought, “This is how my soul thirsts. It longs for love. It searches like a madman in the desert for the love only found in God’s eyes. My cells were made to reach out and grasp. As they live, divide, and die their DNA is programmed for love.
I watched my son and Jason walk ahead until they were out of view. I continued on with Zoe the last quarter mile. She talked of Jesus and His attributes to console her wimpy mother. Every memory verse she could think of came out of her precious body to encourage my feet to keep moving. She was so strong and my friend. Zoe was the rock that God promised she would be and will be. I didn’t have to thirst alone. (Jesus has such big plans for my girl- but that’s another blog post.)
About a month after arriving here in Alabama, God got really quiet. After 24 hours of silence, I was panicking. Jesus is with me- always. He’s THERE. I had never felt Him withdraw His presence before (even on my worst days) since I saw the Holy Spirit above my bed in 2003. He walks with me and talks with me. But suddenly…. silence. SILENCE. I heard echoes- but I couldn’t hear Him speak to me directly. He was distant.
I tearfully prayed:
“Lord, what did I do to offend You?”
“Why are You so quiet?”
“Where are you?”
And again, “Why are You so quiet?”
I sang somberly, “Where are You, Lord?” as I went about my day. I spoke to my friend in Portland and cried some more. I waited for Him to break the silence. I waited some more.
I tried to tell Jason what I was feeling. With tears running down my cheeks, Jason offered words of comfort. “It’ll be okay,” he said. “It’s not that long of a time for Jesus to be silent- He’s will speak soon.” Although I tried to let Hubby’s words soak in, they wouldn’t. I went to bed that night with a whisper of anxiety that even plagued my dreams.
Then the Lord put me in a cabin and had me hike in 90 degree heat. He showed me what it was like to truly thirst. He was pushing me that day and answering my heart cry. I knew He was even though it hurt. It was a good hurt.
There are moments in the mundane that lack all routine. They give us a glimpse of the divine. They are promised stones that mark our short time here on earth and signal change, growth, and things remembered. Finally, after two weeks of heavenly silence, I got a rock.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)
One afternoon shortly after returning home from the cabin, I was taking a bath and praying. I was talking to Jesus again- but again hearing silence. God promised me in His Word that He’d never abandon me, so I knew He was there even though I felt alone. Soft tears joined the water in the tub. I would wait and wait until He decided to speak.
Then suddenly I remembered a dream I had before coming down here. In the dream, I was put in a place of distraction and opulence- but the Lord wasn’t there in that place. (If that doesn’t describe my touristy beach town, I don’t know what does!) Then, the scene in the dream changed. I saw the finger of God hover over the ocean.
Stunned, I thought, “He told me this (the silence) would happen.” And then finally… finally… I heard the Lord say:
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
It was beautiful. It was water. This time instead of tears, I sobbed. Beautiful healing sobs. He had been there all along as He promised He would be. Teaching. Instructing. Stretching. Training. Cold water tastes so much better when you are thirsty.
This is also on my prayer closet door:
“For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:36
Oh be careful what you pray for, because the Lord hears and honors our righteous prayers. He is so wise and so so good.