Many years ago, when I was wandering recklessly in my twenties, I went on a weekend getaway with my best friend far off in the country away from the city's scurry and bustle. My friend had invited me to her family's little cabin for respite and solace. I don't remember much about that weekend except for an experience I had that I will never forget. It is my constant reminder to trust God, and I believe He meant for that day to linger in my heart for the rest of my life.
As I often ruminate over this and that, when and why, where and how...I call to Him and He answers by bringing me back to the powerful lesson learned on that Divine Day.
Throughout my life, I have learned to cope with pain and brokenness by escaping away and desperately seeking God. When I was younger, I would leave my home when it got bad, riding my bike as far away as possible to find a protected place and seek God. I would walk or run or bike anywhere to "get away" and beg for this Almighty God to heal my circumstances, my heart. I always had a passion for God, and longed to believe He truly was present in my life.
As the years went by, walking became my refuge. My getaway...
And as this pattern began early on, it had grown into a way of life for me. I go when I am desperate, and I go when I need to calm down. I go to replenish and to restore. I go to search for His guidance and His comfort. I go to find wisdom and ways to grow my faith and feed my soul. I go to reconnect and remind myself that God is ever-present and God is whom I trust. I go to reflect on pivotal moments, seeking purpose in my life.
So I planned to go for one of "my walks" the morning before we left from our weekend getaway. I wanted to find my place in the countryside and do "my thing".
The landscape called to me. I needed to go.
On my walk I prayed and dug deep and opened my heart to God with my soul-quenching thirst for Him. As the hillside and endless terrain beckoned me, I wanted more. There were miles and miles of pure breathtaking scenery in the midst of the dewy morning air. I was the only person for miles, and I never felt so close to my God.
And as I grew deeper in my passionate pace, I asked for a sign of His presence. I longed for evidence to solidify this moment in this sacred paradise.
"Lord, I want to see a magnificent deer. Oh, please God- I know you will do this for me!"
I walked and walked. And anxiously searched...
I kept looking and praying. "Lord this isn't some huge favor to ask, I mean deer are EVERYWHERE in the morning! C'mon now... just one deer to show you are here with me."
I started to slow down and my heart grew heavy, but I couldn't give up. I just knew He would show me something. This moment, it just felt so personal, so profound. I wanted proof of His Presence. My twenty-something fervor was relentless...
I walked and walked. I searched and searched.
As I grew tired and weary of the fight for faith, I headed back in disappointment and defeat.
Where was He?
My God didn't show up.
My friend and I packed up the car and started to head out on the long winding road, driving slowly around the bend.
And there they were.
A mama deer and her fawn.
I screamed for my friend to "STOP THE CAR!!!" She immediately pulled over and caught her breath.
I just stared in silence.
This precious sight was right on the side of the road. Not just one deer, like I requested... but two. Not just any deer either. A mama and her babe. It was more than I asked for. They didn't run away. They just stayed and grazed and looked up at us, and in that moment my heart melted. My soul opened wide and took in what I longed for and needed to see. My faith was restored. I was blessed.
"Thank you." I whispered.
But with that incredible relief, I immediately felt a pain in my heart that tugged on my spirit... I felt Him whisper.
"I was there, but I wanted you to believe...without seeing."
I wonder if God was sad that day. I believe He wanted my faith to be strong enough to not have to test Him. Could He have hoped my belief would withstand His test? Was He waiting for my heart to hold true to His Promise, and not diminish in my merciless request? He watched me fall, and fail in faith.
And yet, my Gracious God gave me what I needed. He delivered.
But all He wanted, was for me to simply trust in Him; the Deliverer.
God never leaves us where we are. And I will never lose site of those deer and that powerful lesson in belief. When I find myself wanting, reaching, and wishing for a sign of His Presence...
I remember the vision of those deer on the side of the road every time. And I choose to honor my Heavenly Father with belief in the unseen. Like a good parent does, He taught me well. Not by punitive punishment, but by loving grace.
And He continues to do so, over and over again.
29 Jesus said to Thomas, "You believe because you've seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me but believe."
A version of this post was originally published over at TheMomCafe.com.