Today I went on a hike and had a sweet and incredible experience with my girls and the Lord. It was so fitting because I’ve been reading the book of James for the past week which kept reminding me that our faith must have clear evidences in our real lives…. or it isn’t real faith. That usually comes down to a risk of some sort. Like it did for me today.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
I went on a hike with my girls on some paths I’ve walked many times. I shared a story with them about how a couple years ago I was on the very same path and the woods looked very brown and bare – just like it looked right now. I explained how I’d heard God whisper to me “I’m still here in all my fullness. Just look.” I began to pluck tiny plants or flowers I saw in a few nice colors, and soon I began to wonder whether God could give me the whole rainbow of colors before I left the trail??
I hesitated to believe that the thought was from Him: the woods at first glance truly were brown and lifeless nearly everywhere I looked. But He was impressing on me to believe: to keep picking up each color in the faith that He could deliver all of them on my short walk. I wanted to believe that He was here – in all his fullness- even when it looked barren around me, but am I nuts? Really, God? Where in the world are orange and purple going to come from?
Well, in a short time I’d collected every color except blue. I couldn’t imagine how He’d deliver blue. Blue! But again I felt Him urging me to risk believing it was Him. To risk being disappointed if it wasn’t. To risk looking around expectantly as if He was really going to do it somehow. I actually said out loud “Ok. I believe you. You’re going to give them all to me. I’m going to find the blue somehow.” I came to the end of the trail a little bummed I still didn’t have blue. I stopped at the end of trail, ready to turn back to the car, and I glanced down.
There they were: a tiny cluster of blue belles at my feet! I burst out laughing and got tears in my eyes. He had delivered the whole rainbow! God was there; in all his fullness — even when it didn’t seem like it at first glance.
So today… I told my girls that story and (of course – duh!) they wanted to do the same. Should have seen that one coming. And again I felt my hesitation. I felt protective of my girls young faith. I wanted to protect them from any kind of disappointment in God. I began to think “well, I don’t want them to feel let down by God. What if it doesn’t happen? I don’t want to challenge God or anything. Maybe we shouldn’t.” But I went ahead sensing again this was a risk I should and could and needed to take on God. I know it doesn’t seem like a big risk, but it was. It was a lot for me to think He’d do it again. Why would I think He’d care about this? Why would he?! But I think in the end, He just wants us to risk the real belief…that He’s there, listening, cares…and He’ll use anything to enter that exchange with us.
So I agreed with them; “Ok let’s look!” And soon enough – you guessed it – we had everything except blue.
We got to the end of the same trail and turned back just as I had a couple years ago. We were disappointed. No blue in sight. And my daughter Zoe said to me “Mom we think it’s over, but I wonder if God thinks it is.” I told her that was a great thought to always hold onto about God: When we are done, He’s usually not.
We neared the parking lot. I was having a silent conversation with God telling him how much I wanted my girls to have easy, daily, childlike faith in little things like this. I wanted them to go on walks with Him the same way I liked to do. I wanted them to ask and think He was right there, listening. And truth be told, I was bummed too. I’d wanted him to show Him presence and voice and sweetness to me, too, in this beautiful little way.
No sooner had my doubts been (silently) voiced to God but my daughter, Hope, yelled “Guys! Look!” I turned around just as she opened her cupped hands to show us a beautiful BLUE butterfly!
Given the time of year, it must have been the only one in the entire woods. She reached up and caught it out of thin air.
Tears sprang to my eyes, and we all realized at once what had happened! God sent us our blue! He just did it in a way we didn’t expect. Different than last time. And just as incredible, just as beautiful.
When, oh when, will I stop being the one to the words of James this week were directed….
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
When we read words like this we are prone to underestimate our own doubts and unfaithfulness. We are prone to read “ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find” thinking that we do that all the time. But the truth is most of us don’t. We don’t risk the disappointment. We don’t risk the hope. We don’t risk the impact on our kids. We don’t risk actually putting our faith to work even on a Sunday walk in the woods.
I’m glad I decided to risk it. I’m glad God is so patient with me. Real faith sure is easier to read about than do.