I was on homescribbles.blogspot.com yesterday where Jen wrote about keeping a journal of mystical events. She does this as a record so when God feels far away she can go back to remember. I really connected with her and her writings. Ironically, I have done the same thing. I have a little book with healing events. I am involved in the healing ministry. We do not always see amazing things around here. That is not all bad. Too often, the desire for "signs and wonders" is a hunger for proof to prop up my faith. It is "proof" that we are not crazy for believing in God.
The reality is, doubt is insatiable. There is no proof for the heart which wants absolute proof. I know that two people can hear the same arguments and walk away with different conclusions. I know my own hunger for proof and certainty keeps coming back. I always needed just one more miracle! Long ago I decided that asking the question does God exist is fruitless. There is too much focus on yes or no (and half of the options are bad!). Instead, I think it more fruitful to ask, "what is God like?"
Last week, a dear friend contacted me. She is in a bad way with some psychological-medical issues. She gave me permission to share this. She is in a very dark place. I am her spiritual director, so we have had many conversations over the years. When she e-mailed me about her present distress I asked God to help her. I made a specific plea that He send her a hawk. Hawks are an important symbol for her. They are signs of God and show up at challenging moments as a reminder of his presence. So I knew a hawk would be a source of comfort to her. But my prayer was for a "literal or figurative" hawk. When we talked later she made mention of my e-mail as a figurative hawk and we both thanked God for the work He was doing.
A few days later she called. She was in a very dark and difficult place. We talked for some time. I felt overwhelmed by her need and how little I had to offer. (Sort of like the apostles trying to figure out how to feed thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes) I know enough about counseling that sometimes caring and listening is enough. I was aware at conversation end that the love and listening were of some value. After hanging up the phone I prayed again. "God have mercy!"
Later that day I saw I had a message. It was from her. "I saw a hawk" she said. "I have never seen one in the city. Later I saw another." She was deeply comforted by God's gift.
It is tempting to dissect the event. Is it proof of God or a happy coincidence? In our world, the responses are divided. But I know this. The experience was healing for her. God is a healer. The experience was not in her control. God is Lord and He is in charge. The experience led her to gratitude and worship. The work of the Holy Spirit is to lead us to thanks and praise.
Of course, the question does pop up, why not just heal her? Why must she suffer? Why send hawks when you can just fix the problem? Lots of possible answers there. Discussions about how the world is. Discussions about God's intent and plan. Discussions about why and how and when. Too much to cover today (like I even know the answers!). But I do know this. Like the Bible says, God does not leave us orphaned. Even in the dark there is a flicker of light.
I wrote this down in my journal. It is with other similar stories. Stories about a God who does not draw attention to Himself, but quietly intervenes in lives of those He loves. A God who does not force our doubts to disappear. A God who is often subtle and must be 'looked for.' Yet a God is there for those who are sincerely looking.
And I need to remember what kind of God He is.