One of my earliest memories is standing in our back yard and looking up at very tall trees. I was by myself. Probably about five or six years old…. I don’t understand how memory works exactly. I remember some details of my childhood like they happened yesterday, and some are just out of reach, fuzzy and illusive. I remember this moment in living color, great detail, every emotion. For some reason on this particular day, I was alone in the back yard. I felt uncertain. I felt unsettled. Something was bothering me…I have no idea what it was, just that I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like a peaceful, happy kid. I was agitated. And I was wondering about God. Somehow, for some reason, in my little kid brain I had decided that I needed to know if God was real. So, as I stood in the yard that day, I decided to put Him to the test.
God. If you are real. Make the wind blow…right…now.
And it did. The wind blew through the branches with a swoosh. I remember the force of it. My jaw dropped, and I immediately ran as fast as I could into the house. I was terrified. I remember being that scared. OH MY GOD. GOD IS REAL. And I ran.
Flash forward 55ish years and I’m sitting in my beach chair in our new backyard…and it is very, very quiet. Wonderfully quiet. I’m savoring the quiet and then…the rustling of leaves. I look up and the branches all around me start to move…mysteriously. Isn’t wind so interesting? It is invisible, except as it touches things they move and shift and can’t resist its power. Trees sway, leaves blow, I pull my blanket around me as the chill of the air moves over me. I can’t see it, but I know what it is. And I remember my childhood backyard experience, all of a sudden, out of nowhere…it pops into my head.
I felt like God was smiling, maybe even winking…reminding me. He has shown Himself real in so many ways since that childhood day in the backyard. I don’t feel afraid of Him anymore. I actually feel less afraid in the midst of many unknowns because of His presence. He has done stuff…He has helped, comforted, directed and corrected me. And He has helped others, people I love and people I barely know, prayers answered. He is so real to me. What He does is so real. As real as that wind.
I was thinking that I attribute things to God that others maybe don’t. Wind blows due to atmospheric pressure changes…I sense His presence. I see a certain shift in a situation or a heart as an answer to prayer…while others might call it a coincidence. I see things move, and although He is invisible, I trace the movement back to His hand. He heals, or maybe it was the doctor. He comforts, or maybe it was the good friend who called. Or did He move them to call? Did He provide the right doctor at just the right time? Does God do that? Am I giving Him too much credit? I read a devotion or a verse or a chapter in a book; it is exactly what I’m going through and it helps me. How does that happen? Why do I say it is God?
It occurs to me that I don’t have to think God did those things. So many people have so many other explanations. I could reason it all away…maybe. I could stop asking Him, listening for Him, reading about Him, following Him, thinking about Him…withdraw from Him and see what happens. Sounds like a horrible experiment.
The truth is I believe. I experience His winks. I attribute movement to the wind…His wind, His answers. His real presence. I don’t know quite how to explain faith. I think the best explanation is that it is a step into the unknown, a yes to the unseen…and then slowly everything changes. Perspective shifts, and you start noticing things. I want with all my heart to figure out how to explain this to others. I ran away afraid as a child, now I run to Him. I find Him to be entirely loving, patient, gentle and profound. I am baffled by His grace. I am overwhelmed by His relentless kindness to me. And it is not just me. It’s all of us. He loves all of us. He is not a cranky judge or moralistic old man. He is not a racist, sexist, killer of fun. He is just the best, this Jesus.
And yet, I also know things happen that are awful. Life is sometimes unbearably difficult. Death comes too soon to too many. There is suffering. People who say they believe and follow Jesus are at times just…well, just mean, arrogant and hateful, narcissistic and selfish. And ridiculous, really. (Me included sometimes…I’m sad to say.) There is so much injustice, so much wrong in the world. It is overwhelming. I don’t have simple answers or any formulas at all. As a matter of fact, the older I get the fewer answers I have. I just know there is this God I experience, Creator, Love, force in the universe who can settle my soul like no one or nothing else. I want to recommend Him to someone today who needs to say yes to faith and hope and love. Christmas is a wonder. Jesus is real. He came and grew up here, so He understands completely. He was betrayed and killed. He understands sorrow and death and deep hurt. Maybe give Him a moment…be brave and ask Him if He is real. And get ready for the wind…He will for sure send you some wind. And maybe a wink or two…followed by some answers you’ve been searching for, some comfort you’ve needed maybe for years.
Yes, please Lord. Hear our prayers. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Help us perceive Your answers, help us not to miss Your hand. Help us be still and watch and wait expectantly.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.