It was a beautiful, misty morning in the mountains of North Georgia. With walking stick in hand, I placed one foot in front of the other as I hiked a section of the Appalachian trail. I was celebrating the end of a weekend all by myself in a mountain cabin. It was a wonderful tradition that we had begun with the high school graduation of my first child 6 years earlier: When one graduates, Mom gets a weekend to herself. It was kind of a nod to all that a Mom puts into the 18 years leading up to that milestone, and it was certainly a tradition I had encouraged.
I love hiking mountain trails. I love the beauty and the feeling that, with only a stick to aid me, I can travel from one place to another miles away. I love the solitude and the feeling of God’s protection that the towering peaks give me. And I’ve found that, with the noise of my normal life silenced, I can often hear God speaking much more clearly.
I was certainly speaking to Him that beautiful May morning last spring. There were so many questions in my life! Questions about friends; about work; about relationships; about direction; about ministry. I just felt that if I could see God and His will for my life more clearly, I would be more settled. I didn’t mind following God anywhere; I just didn’t know where He wanted me to go! I wanted Him closer. “Why can’t I see you better, Lord?” I asked as I rounded yet another switchback on my way up to yet another mountaintop.
My next step brought a blazing attack of light that made me recoil. I turned my head and shielded my eyes with my hands. Rounding that last switchback had turned me toward blinding and sudden sunlight. I stood still, totally preoccupied with avoiding damage to my sight by the brilliant light that filled every inch of air around me.
When turning my head didn’t work, I took a stumbling step forward. Suddenly the light dimmed to a soft glow. Removing my hands from my forehead, I slowly turned my eyes toward the source of the light. What had been blinding a split second ago was now gorgeous. My one step had put a tree in between my eyes and the sun, and it made all the difference in the world. The sunlight that had caused pain just a breath ago was now split on each side of the tree trunk, shining in distinct and muted rays from top to bottom.
And in one of those moments that keep me coming back to the mountains, I heard God reply. “I don’t show you more of me because it would blind you. I show you just enough.”
I stood in the dappled sunlight, almost breathless from the beauty of the sun’s rays shimmering in the mist and the brilliant greens revealed in the thousands of leaves gently swaying in the quiet breeze. How beautiful the light was when filtered perfectly for my eyes!
In that moment I found peace about what was to come. I didn’t find answers to all my questions, but I found an answer to the most important one; one that I hadn’t even asked: God, can I trust you? Just as I could trust Him to reveal Himself with timing planned just for me, I could trust that each revelation from Him would lead me to answers in His time, which is perfect. Yes, I would have to take steps before the answers came. Yes, those steps might look frightening. But if I just trusted Him to light my path, step by step, He would show me what I needed to see.
I learned later that photographers call those rays of sunlight “God rays.” I love that name. It perfectly describes what I saw that day. Not “blinding, burning God light.” Not “Blackest night with not a hair of God in sight.” What a wonderful place to stand.
Of course, I didn’t get to keep standing in those God rays. I had to continue on that mountain path, and eventually I had to return to my hectic, cluttered and sometimes confusing life back at home. But no matter how clearly or dimly the light of God seemed as I walked through the seasons that followed, I knew that the amazing light of His presence was always there. It was somehow easier working to stay on His path for my life knowing that those God rays would shine perfectly; even when they didn’t seem bright enough in my eyes.
I believe passionately that God wants to speak to each of us. I believe that, if we learn to hear and discern His voice, He can live and breathe in our lives daily. But it is not simple to learn how to “tune in” to His presence. So much stands in our way; the voices of this world that call us in the opposite direction; the pulling away from what is best for us that comes from within ourselves.
God Rays don’t just shine on one person. They spread and illuminate a wide area. So I want to help overcome the clamor of all the other voices in life by sharing “God Rays” with as many people as I can. I believe that if we help each other see Him, He will come into focus more quickly.
Don’t misunderstand me; there’s absolutely no substitute for each one of praying to Him and reading His word. If you aren’t doing both of those on a regular basis, His voice is going to be incredibly hard to hear. But in His perfect efficiency, I believe that He can use each of us to help each other step along life’s path.
So grab your walking stick and join me as we look for the next “God Ray”.