Spring in the foothills of Northern California is interesting – capricious, even. Just yesterday, the sun bore down in 95 degree heat. Today, the wind shakes the limbs of the trees and cools the air to a crisp 72. Two weeks ago, purplish-blue lupine grew tangled in the lush, green grasses, covering the hillside. Today, these same grasses toast in the sun, turning a golden-brown hue that screams “fire hazard!”
How can this sweet-smelling, refreshing time of rebirth spin so quickly into a summer of dry heat and burning sun? Perhaps it is in these hot and dry periods that I have to look harder for the signs of life, for the affirmations that new growth is still possible. Despite the decay and apparent lifelessness of the flora, if I hunker down closer to the ground or study the detail in the oak tree leaves, I can still see life – I can still see evidence of something new and promising.
So it is within the seasons of my own faith. This past year has been a veritable springtime of incredible rebirth and renewing of Spirit. I’ve seen God light a fire in my soul, stronger and more vibrant than ever before. I’ve seen my dreams and goals take shape around God’s new purposes for my life. Doors I never imagined appearing miraculously opened so I could step through them. Everywhere I looked, I saw evidence of Divine Presence in my life. That is, until about 4 weeks ago.
There hasn’t been a life-altering moment or some catastrophic event that shattered my faith. I have simply entered one of those “wandering 40 days in the desert” periods in my walk with God. You know, one of those times where faith seems routine and God’s voice isn’t even so much as a whisper in your ear? That’s me.
In his play Richard the III, Shakespeare penned the oft-quoted phrase “Now is the winter of our discontent.” However, I’m still content, and this is hardly winter. Perhaps I might better reflect my current state as “Now is the summer of my silent Spirit.” God’s silence at times makes me fearful, worried that I’m not on the “right” path or that I missed something. I feel like one small, dried-up blade of grass, withering in the parched dirt of late spring.
How do I keep my roots strong and anchored in the earth while I wait for the next rain? Just like my little five-year-old appreciates the detail on the back of a caterpillar or my nine-year-old comments on the song of the frogs echoing from the creek below our house, I must pull out my magnifying glass and focus it on the details – the seemingly mundane and routine details that still reflect God’s presence and impact on my life.
He makes the flowers bloom for me. He loves me beyond the grains of sand near the sea. He knows me by name. He sent me an email, too, did you know that? Well, the email wasn’t directly from God (although that would be pretty incredible). Just as I began analyzing this new “desert-walking period,” I opened my work email. A new message popped up, and it went like this: “I know this email is a little out of the blue, but I have been working on some writing of mine, and I was remembering how important it was to have someone who was as passionate about it as you were teaching me.”
How sweet of God, even in this time of quiet, to bless me through one of my former students. This sweet young lady has not been in my class for two years. It has been two years since we spoke about writing, two years since we shared our passion, yet she felt compelled to reach out to me as she continued the path we began so many months ago. With her kind words, I saw myself kneeling to the ground, brushing aside the brittle and dead grasses to reveal a tiny little blossom of hope – the precious detail in God’s master plan that I needed to see. Hidden in these words was the evidence of growth and purpose I needed to keep wandering for as long as God decides.
Where are you now? Are you stuck in the middle of the desert, with God’s voice only a mirage on the distant horizon? I will challenge you and suggest that His presence is closer than you think. His life-giving Spirit is with you even now – you just need to pull out your magnifying glass of faith and look really close at the seemingly mundane details of life. Maybe God is sending you an email, too.
What will you do with his message? What will I do with it? We really have just two options: ignore these subtle signals in the silence or hyper-focus our vision on the hope they bring. While the springtimes of our faith-walk are invigorating and life-giving because we see God tangibly moving, I believe our faith deepens even more when we are forced to choose to see God. If God continually presents Himself to us with obvious movement, we have no need to pursue Him.
As with any relationship, our connection with God is reciprocal. While his love and grace is unconditional and he will always “leave the 99 to pursue the 1”, to truly remain in relationship with Him, we also must pursue the One. So, in these times when God feels so distant, or when we feel as though the fountain of blessings has been dammed by an unseen hand, we still pursue our Lord. When the areas of our lives that were once flowing with honey are now dried up as raisins in the sun, we open the Word and sift through God’s letters to us. When we don’t feel like God is moving, we trust that He is, and we open our hearts, minds, and souls to the subtle signals of a caterpillar in the dirt, a frog croaking in the twilight of a summer day, or an email from an angel in disguise.