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Sometimes God Sneaks Up On You (My Vacation with God, Part 4)

January 17, 2009

Continued from previous post.

I try to come off like I’m this confident, sophisticated and worldly professional. But when you drop me out in the middle of the wilderness on a rainy day with nothing but a backpack and a poncho, you can bet that within an hour or two the real truth comes out: I’m a basket case of fear, insecurity and doubt. Which is to say, I’m so full of crap. I had a sheepish feeling that perhaps this was God’s lesson for me today, as if He was sitting back in his chair with folded arms saying, “All right, Mister Smarty Pants, now that we’ve gotten that great truth out of the way, maybe we can try to get some real work done around here.”

It was time to turn around and head back to the car. I had enough of the rain and heart attacks and getting lost in the woods. The thought of a hearty dinner and fireplace waiting for me at the lodge became a much more appealing location to practice meditation. I trudged back along the trail, but instead of praying, this time I paid very close attention to those yellow trail markers. It was pouring, but there was a light kick in my step from the tremendous relief of finding the trail. I was lost, but now am found.

I thought about those yellow circles, how they reminded me of the consistency of God’s grace throughout the course of my life. All I know is, if we keep looking up, He’ll give us signs along the way. Maybe it comes as a word from a friend, or through a passage we read, or a coincidental circumstance. Somehow, if we’re paying attention, He gives us these little hints from time to time to let us know He’s got his eye on us, that we’re heading in the right direction. That things are going to be okay.

I was about an hour away from the trailhead, moving at a pretty good clip  despite the soggy boots. Then the strangest thing happened. As I was booking along the trail at breakneck speed, suddenly, for absolutely no reason, I stopped dead in my tracks. I can’t say why. It wasn’t at all a conscious decision. I just stopped. I felt God prompting me.

“Look.” He said.

I turned to look off the side of the trail, and there, leaning gently against a tree, was a stick. A walking stick.

It was the perfect walking stick, just the right height. It was a strong piece of wood, with a slight curve to give it some good leverage. There was a shapely little crook for the hand at the upper end, and a smooth spot right at the top for my thumb. It looked like it had just dropped right out of the sky, a branch fallen off of it’s mother tree, landing in that exact spot. As I approached it, I felt as if this was the one walking stick in the world for me. 

God’s presence suddenly overwhelmed the forest. It’s hard to explain. I don’t have words for it, but it somehow felt like, at that moment, God had decided to physically join me on the hike. Maybe it’s what Moses felt when he first saw that burning bush. I looked behind me, all around, but no one was there. It was as if God was playing a trick, like He planned a secret party for me at that tree. “Surprise!” He shouts, jumping out from behind the invisible curtain of infinite omnipresence. It scared me a little bit.

“Is this walking staff for me, God?” Of course at a time like this, calling it a staff rather than a stick sounds more appropriate, more biblical. The sound of a million raindrops pelting the bed of the vast forest floor gave a resounding Yes. Then, applause.

I reached out for the walking stick. “Thank you.” I whispered. Upon taking in the absolute beauty and strangeness of the gift, and this moment, I could only respond with a deep-felt sense of awe. I was overcome with reverence and humility. I worshipped Him. Surely, He was with me now.

It seems as if we are all bopping along in our lives, following our given paths, trying to pay attention so that we don’t get lost. And then, when you least expect it, God’s presence can sneak up right behind you while you’re not looking, and give you a friendly poke in the ribs. “Don’t scare me like that!” you say, startled. Laughing. Then you turn around and see who it is, and you fall to your knees.

The rest of my vacation with God was, comparatively speaking, uneventful. I read a couple of inspiring books, wrote to God in my journal, and spent a great deal of time in prayer. It was peaceful and restful. I used that walking stick on two more hikes. I kind of hoped people would pass by, notice the divine powers emanating from my special stick, and maybe ask me about it. No one did. I took the stick home with me, and now it lies on the hearth above my fireplace in the family room. Sometimes when I’m praying, I’ll pick it up and walk around the house with it as I pray. It reminds me that God’s presence is with me, even when I don’t know it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2009 11:21 am

    beautiful !

    thank you for this wonderful story of your time in the woods with God.

  2. January 21, 2009 3:51 pm

    Oh that made my heart melt. You made me laugh and you made me stand in awe at the feet of Jesus, it gives me chills and a small tear as I write this (must be God). His presence is sooo wonderful, I am sooo happy that you had that special time with Him and that He kept you safe and secure in His arms. He must have known (of course) that you would glorify Him on your blog. Thanks for blessing my heart! May God continue to surround you with His presence and may you truly feel Him near. Robin

  3. September 18, 2012 6:20 pm

    That’s awesome! What a great idea, what a great story, what a great reminder of God’s presence!
    I’m not really an outdoorsy type person, but this is starting to win me over.

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