If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm (the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the LORD); though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37: 23-24.
I seem to stumble into God’s purposes more often than I intentionally, clearly see and follow. But it’s comforting to know that I can’t accidentally fall off the path of God’s plans and purposes involving me – and what fun it is to find yourself in the right place at just the right time!
Time almost caused me to miss a God-appointment on January 1.
A few days before, I received an e-mail from Bridge Builders about Mountaintop Prayer throughout Arizona on New Year’s Day and thought it sounded nice to watch the sun rise and ring in what I fervently pray is a year of victory and blessing with a bunch of other people praying on a high place. There are LOTS of mountains in and around the valley that is Metro Phoenix. Two venues in the e-mail caught my attention: one just four miles from my house, and one about 12 miles away on “A” Mountain in Tempe, overlooking Arizona State University.
I filed the thought as “act on later.” Life was too hectic with Winter Camp in full swing at the Zoo to make firm plans in advance. So December 3oth found me firing off a quick phone call to the leader of one hike. I leaned toward the “save time/save gas” option, but “A” Mountain still beckoned me. I met my husband at ASU, and it seemed somehow fitting to pray overlooking the place we met, the place we lived, the place he gave me his Aunt’s garnet ring, the place where our life together began. I wanted to take back territory lost!
But doggone it, I’d picked up the bug going around our office (my boss had strep), and after a week of raising my voice over 19 kindergarteners going in 16 different directions at once, Wednesday in one day of cold and constant rain and Thursday in bitter cold, I’d awakened at 1:25 am on the 31st feeling like someone ripped my throat out and shoved a piece of rebar in my left ear. Stay home? Go anyway? I e-mailed the leader of the “A” Mountain hike and got the map and details, just in case I felt better on New Year’s Day: park somewhere close to the trailhead at 6:30, hike to the top, meet the group, bring a flashlight. Just in case, and just in case, I went to bed in my long underwear, turtleneck top and wool socks.
I woke up just before 5 a.m. still feeling miserable, knowing it was still hovering around the freezing mark, and “sensibly” talked myself into going back to sleep. But I awoke again at 6:05 and thought (very spiritually) “Oh, what the heck!” Panic leaped out of bed with me, because at the very least I needed to feed the dogs and let them out and back in, throw on jeans and a sweater, hiking boots, and a heavy coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and drive 12 miles to Tempe – yes, I chose “A” Mountain – in 25 minutes! Cursing my waffling, I slammed down some orange juice and gave up on breakfast, splashed some water on my face and gave up on makeup (it would be dark anyway) and brushing my hair (it would be under a hat), gave up on leisurely hiking to the peak, and sped off into the frigid darkness.
My quick look at the map the day before showed nebulous parking lots, but several approaches to the trail. Where in the world was the closest trailhead? I passed up a parking lot, only to find I couldn’t turn left at the next one. U turn at the light, back to the lot, but where was the trail? “Fortunately” a young woman pulled into the lot at the same time I did, and though she wasn’t part of the prayer group, she did point me in the general direction of the trail. Shoot – no flashlight! I gratefully thanked God for the low-sodium city glow that sort of illuminated the path. Clock ticking, I chugged up the trail, turning at what seemed to be the right spot to head higher up the hill. Nose running, throat aching, breath heaving, I made it to steps that aimed me toward a black outcropping of rock just beneath microwave tower.
No one was there. Rats! Had the bitter cold kept everyone at home – where I should have been if I’d had any sense? I saw movement as dark figures ascended on the trail below. I didn’t know any of these people, not Pastor Yoo, none of the young people with him, no one else. I scaled the boulder and found a rough depression in the rock on the top. Positioning my backside in the icy-cold natural bowl, I sighed and set my thoughts to singing and praising God and calling forth victory, even as I felt sick and sorrowing over all the promise of love lost. Husky early morning voices, more fervor than melody, but we praised!
Pastor Yoo asked us to get in groups of two or three to pray. A woman about my age was perched in the cleft in the boulder opposite me. I asked her if she’d like to join me, and she crawled up to a little ledge just down from my bowl. After we shared our individual concerns, we prayed for the city, university, students, state, nation, and the world. Funny how quickly you can feel connection with another believer!
I told her why I’d come to this particular peak, and she told me of miracles she’s seen in the hearts of some very hardened people. I prayed for her to find greater intimacy with God. Our prayer wound down, and I asked her if she’d been to the big Bridge Builders events at my church, City of Grace. Even in the dim morning light I cold see her eyes widen.
“Yes. I’ve been praying for City of Grace since last summer, and three months ago the Lord told me to start attending there at the first of the year!”
Ha! Jesus did it – got my less-than-willing body out of bed, directed me to the right mountain, and plopped my keester on a cold rock where he had a meeting scheduled for Jessica and me. As of last Sunday and yesterday, she’s already plugged into the prayer ministry at City of Grace.
Today I went to the gym after work – not the one with the nice hot tub where I wanted to go, but the one closest to my work – asked a simple question about discounts for Zoo employees, and BAM ran smack into another God-incidence with a remarkable young man, trainer, and Christian brother named Rob. Wow, this meting holds potential blessings for both of us in the incredible purposes of God.
Last Saturday it was, “Oh, heck.” Today it was, “Oh, well.” I make a seemingly insignificant choice and fall into the hands and plans of the Living God. Stumbling and defaulting, I find somehow I’ve been on the path of God’s desires and purposes, unknowingly, all along. What an awesome Father, Redeemer, and Guide we have! As much as I fear making huge mistakes in this painful pre-dawn journey I’m on, how reassuring it is to know that there is a loving hand that guides me into remarkable goodness. And that reassuring truth gives me reason to hope yet, still, that the sunrise miracle is coming.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73: 23-26