I recently got to spend a few hours on a date with my son. We headed over to an animal park, 'cause that's how we roll. They had big doings going on, and we were anxious to check out the changes. The main big doing was just the fact that they were open in the evening in the first place. Up until this time, except for rare special events, guests had never been allowed to enjoy the animals during those late hours.
We took in a favorite show, and then waited patiently for the perfect time to experience our first nighttime safari. We had passes that would allow us to jump into the line at just the right moment to see the sun set. That moment came, and we climbed inside the big truck, sitting four across on a bench-like seat: Jim, myself, and Mr. & Mrs. Stranger. Under other circumstances I may have come away knowing their actual names, but not on this day. We took off, and even the route that our safari vehicle began to travel was different from any that we had experienced previously. This was going to be memorable!
And then it happened. The sky opened up with a ferocious torrential rain that was unlike any that had ever come before it in the history of mankind. At least that's how it seemed in the back of that truck with open sides and a canopy for a roof. The wind blew, and the rain falling from the sky looked like one of those cheap plastic opaque shower curtain liners. The falling water was so solid that it was impossible to make out individual raindrops. And that curtain of rain was blowing in on OUR side of the truck. Straight in.
Immediately and without hesitation, my sweet son turned his body sideways with his face toward the storm, shielding me to the very best of his ability. I assured him that I was fine and that he should turn around, but he wouldn't even respond. Instantly, a stream of water poured from his hair and down his arms. I finally gave up and snuggled in against his back and weathered the storm.
Our safari guide continued to point out the animals as we traveled along at wildlife viewing speed. She had dropped down the sides of the cab up there at the driver's seat and seemed pretty oblivious to our distressing conditions. She had a job to do and she was doing it. At least until she made a comment about how, sadly, our safari was coming to an end, only to hear a very soggy and pitiful collective cheer. She then laughed and reminded us that we, as some of the first to experience the nighttime safari, would certainly be left with quite a memory. Indeed!
That happened nearly a week ago, but I just can't stop thinking about it, for two reasons. They are both probably pretty obvious, but you know I'm going to point them out, anyway. :)
There are seasons in your life if you are fully trusting in God that you are going to be thrust into a ferocious storm, and you'll think that no one ever before you has been asked to endure such a thing. You are wet and miserable at best, and probably battered and lost for a while. You are fearful. You have no control at all as to which way you are being tossed. You are blinded. You can't even see if Jesus is there with you. That's where a bit of faith comes in.
You can abandon ship if you so choose. Many do. Jump and run. They run off all alone to face the storm, attempting to hunker down with the warthogs. Their own wisdom. Their own strength. What a place to be! Without shelter. And completely without protection.
One of the coolest things about the nighttime safari was the fact that the female lions were up and about. They are nocturnal or close to it, and they were on the prowl. It was a sight that I'd never seen before. I am so glad that I was in the shelter, such as it was, of that safari vehicle. I can't imagine jumping ship and being out there all alone. Had I done so, no doubt before morning I would have made a tasty meal for that lioness and her cubs. I have known many, when in the midst of storm, to do just that. I tear up as I write that, with their faces before me in my mind. I am sad for them.
Or you can choose to trust that Jesus is in the storm, even when you can't see Him. That He loves you and knows what's best. He allows the storm. He even causes it! You can have faith that He is not only there, but that He has turned to face the worst of it for you. And when you realize that and just lean in, all fear is removed. Then it's no more faith. I didn't have faith that Jim was there, protecting me. I knew his protection. I felt his strong back as I leaned on him. I knew I was loved and sheltered.
How is that any more faith? I have asked myself that so many times in recent months. We sing about walking by faith. The Bible requires of us faith. But when you are leaning in, snuggled up to the Lord, and feel His strong back protecting you from the worst of the storm, it no long feels like faith. You know Him. Once you've experienced His presence in that way, faith is replaced with a knowing that I cannot give words to. Faith is no longer a word I would choose to describe this. I KNOW!
The second thought that I took away from that evening was that somewhere there is a girl who's going to come into my life one day, and she sure is going to love me. By God's grace, she is going to have herself a wonderful husband. And my prayer is that God is working in her life even as I write this. I can't wait to meet her!
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