This fall, my creative inspiration was fired up. Fortunately, I had the foresight to pack up the back patio early, before the last of summer warmth was bushwhacked by a surprising, unseasonal snowfall. I should have had the sense to stop right there, but the brilliant idea to cut down branches of mountain ash and crab-apple trees from a friend’s yard consumed me. Theoretically, they would mix with dying spikes from our summer arrangement to create a lovely foliage montage I could later add Christmas lights to for real festivity. Berry-laden branches would attract the birds to the window; something sure to delight Mom.
As with many ingenious attempts, it was more inspired in conception than execution. I made a heck of a mess hauling those branches home in the back of the car on a day sodden with moisture; strewing bits and bunches from here to Kingdom Come (try to clean up squished red berries!). Of course, when you do all this in the first major snow, you get soaking wet and inevitably drag the clinging debris inside as well, necessitating a full-on house-cleaning once you’re done! It was a gong show from start to finish. I ended up with three exuberant but completely unruly arrangements that managed to obscure our view out without upping the beauty quotient one iota. More like getting lost in the bush around Miquelon Lake than the traversing the gardens of Versailles. The tangle bugged me so much that I had to take a second crack it a few weeks later, disciplining the obstreperous collection with a ruthless edit, but even that didn’t help. Except for one extremely intrepid little wren who had a good exploration one morning and was never seen again, my grand aviary extravaganza was a bust.
Imagine my astonishment when the long-awaited appreciation came from an entirely unanticipated quarter! I had seen a big doe with three little daughters saunter across the park on a couple of occasions, and somehow, one of these youthful sisters got detached from the group grazing at a distance and decided that my pots look promising. This little darling ended up at our window, nose pressed against the glass to stare blithely and unblinkingly at me standing not ten feet away. Then she got wind of the berries. What a windfall! What delectation! Her velvety nose sussed out the frosted, dried up crabapples and gobbled them daintily, one by one. They must have tasted like exotic candy, ‘cause she wasn’t going home till she got them all – balletically vaulting right on to the patio for those nestling hidden. It was a charming moment, making me laugh at the contrary and completely unexpected benefit my erstwhile failed experiment had produced.
My surprisingly delightful visitor brought to my mind the words of Songs 2:8-9;
The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes Leaping upon the mountains, Skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he stands behind our wall; He is looking through the windows, Gazing through the lattice.
In that suspended moment with the wide-eyed doe, one of those pure and rare encapsulations of beauty occurred, and the presence of the Lord was very close. Sometimes, His visitation comes in under the radar; the gentle moment when time seems to stand still, delighting us with the unforeseen, or amusing us with the paradoxical.
Of course, Scripture is filled with the marvelous, miraculous, larger-than-life works of God: the flood, the plagues, supernatural warfare, the Virgin birth, the Transfiguration. In real life, however, Red Sea partings are quite a bit less frequent. In a lifetime, we may witness two or three completely unmistakable Theophanies, but on the average day, however, you’re going to have to scan the radar very carefully for signs of His presence. He’s there, but not in the parade. We’re always asking for the grand gesture, but most of the time, He’s the still, small voice.
One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:1-35). Two shell-shocked disciples head out of Jerusalem for home. Devastated and despondent, they are quietly joined by a stranger. It’s Jesus Himself, but they don’t know it; “their eyes were held”. He inquires as to what they are talking about, as they are so obviously ‘gloomy’ (literal Greek), when in fact, news of the resurrection has already reached them (24:22-24). Nothing more endearing than the way Jesus stands silent, listening quietly to their trauma. Then He brings them surely into the larger revelation of the ‘why’ behind it all. As they reach their destination, they constrain this really nice, learned guy to stay with them. Finally, in “the breaking of the bread” their eyes are opened; they recognize Jesus at last before He vanishes. Then, they know the burning of their heart in conversation from what it really was; divine presence. As all gather together again, Yeshua appears.
How many times has this happened to you? Long seasons when nothing seems to be happening frustrate us unspeakably; when our best attempts at spiritual intimacy are reciprocated with only deep silence. We cannot make sense of anything that is happening. We have no revelation; we receive no rhema. We hit the wall. The Lord seems inert, neither answering prayer nor moving mountains. We’re looking for the grand gesture, but it’s nowhere to be found.
Love should have grand gestures, no question. The expression of adoration should be vibrant, extravagant, dramatic, exorbitant, ardent and unmistakable. But attachment has many forms less than spectacular. They are the unspoken subtext running through regular routines, mundane tasks and familiar conversations; the tedium of simple life. The substance of true devotion is faithfulness, day in day out. The Lord is as much present in the endless monotony as He is in the breath-taking. Open our eyes Lord, to see you walking with us, to feel your gentle, endearing touch in what is so, so ordinary.