Thursday, July 17, 2008

"I went to the mountain..."

"...I went to the doctor,
I went to the mountains
I looked to the children,
I drank from the fountains
We go to the Bible,
We go through the workout
We read up on revival
We stand up for the lookout
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek a source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine..."

- Emily Saliers

One summer morning, just after dawn, I heard a knock on my cabin door.  Grabbing my sweatshirt and pulling it on over my nightgown I opened the door to find a tear-streaked teen standing on my porch in sleep-mussed braids, wrinkled jeans and obvious distress.  Her pain was palpable.

She had been up all night searching for some reason to believe... deeply within her own heart...that God was real and that she could know Him for herself.  She was tired of being told
about a God who is Love.  She was ready to know God for herself.  She was at the point where she needed to experience His presence…to really feel Her power and influence in her life. She was confused by her own questioning. She had been coming to camp since she was eight. I had watched her grow from a tiny little girl on a great big horse to a fearless rodeo competitor. She was usually the first camper offering to help others on a hike, and to see her so distraught was heartbreaking. I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms around her quaking shoulders and make it all better.

Listening as her questions tumbled out, it didn't take long for me to realize that I would never have the kind of answers she was really looking for.  God would have to "be with my mouth"…even if that meant I should just keep it closed and continue to listen.   She was full of questions for which I knew I would only have less than soul-satisfying answers for…questions about the nature of love, the reliability of truth, the seeming absence of peace and kindness in the world.  I could share with her the milestones of my own search for God and the meaning of the universe, but I couldn't
be the end of her search…the seat of her answers.

Then it dawned on me.  I didn't need to answer her questions, I only needed to celebrate the deep hungering for something spiritually substantive which her tears represented. 

Her quest for something reliable, her search for a firm foundation on which to lay the beams of her faith, was a clear and powerful indication of the presence of God in her life…right in the midst of her questioning.   It was pointing to a deep longing for something more, a profound stirring within that rejected complacency, and an inner struggle for Truth. 

In what are referred to as "The Beatitudes", Jesus says, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…"  The blessing is in the hungering and thirsting…the "for they shall be filled" is such a given that it almost appears as an afterthought.  My dictionary defines "blessed" as "the presence of divine favor or endowment".  I could rest my own prayers for
her heart's peace in knowing that her hunger was the very indication of actually experiencing the "divine" she was searching for. 

Her search was her own.  Yes, it was spurred on by a childhood of being spiritually nurtured through years of singing much-loved hymns, her parents prayers, and dynamic Sunday school classes within a cherished faith. But whether this same faith would continue to define the path she would follow in seeking satisfying answers wasn't clear to her that early summer morning.  What was least to me...was that God would always be with her.  That her hunger and thirst to know Him was a very real and tangible indication that He was already there, that He already had His hand in hers and would always lead her to look in the direction that would show her His face in the clouds and His love in her own unselfish and generous heart.

Today, years later, this experience continues to bring me great comfort, especially when my own hunger for more satisfying spiritual answers feels like a yawning emptiness. I am grateful to realize, again and again, that I too am just "still searching".  Yes, this endless questioning continues to keep me awake at night and on my knees longing for answers.  But now I know, that if there is a hunger in my heart, He is already there with me.  For many years I thought that God was in the answers, that to know Him was to
know something…I am discovering that to know God is to always be hungry, to always be asking, to always be searching for His face in the clouds and His hand on my heart.

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