I am completely fascinated by a video I viewed recently recorded by a team of biologists with National Geographic. The Great Cormorant is a large majestic bird that lives high along the trees or cliffs near the ocean. The cormorant lives off of eels and fish caught deep on the ocean floor. Biologists attached a camera to the back of one of these big birds to study their eating habits and eventually posted it to YouTube. The cormorant dove into the water and descended to a depth of over 150 feet, a level that would cause most humans to pass out without proper diving gear. The deeper the bird went the darker the waters became and it was hard at times to make out the video. Upon reaching the ocean floor the cormorant actually walks the bottom looking for food, following his senses when it’s too dark to detect the surroundings, until it finds just what it wants to satisfy its craving. When it catches its prey it swims back to the surface in record time and takes less than 10 seconds to decompress, at which time it enjoys the catch of the day. The food source these birds rely on can only be found at the rocky bottom of the oceans where they live. Only by navigating deep ocean levels for its sustenance can it enjoy living high in the cliffs.
Earlier this year during my prayer time I asked God to take me to a new level of faith uncommon to the status quo of everyday Christendom. I asked this not to become better than others in the faith, but that I may have an uncommon revelation of who God is and who I could become through Him. It sounded like a genuine request-I wasn’t asking for material blessings or a better life, just a deeper walk, expecting voices and visions and mountain top experiences. The past year of my life has been the darkest, coldest, loneliest and most silent period of my Christian journey, one from which I have yet to completely emerge. If you have read my earlier posts like God in a Steel Cage or God’s Deafening Silence, you may have a clue to what this period has been like for me. I have definitely sank to new spiritual lows in the process.
I discovered only what I think I already knew about God but I mistakenly gave Him permission to prove it to me. So consider this fair warning if you are serious about your faith and tempted to ask God to do the same for you. I had already learned about patience earlier. Patience is NOT one of my spiritual gifts. I don’t like lines, I don’t like being late, I will stand by the microwave counting the seconds for my instant oatmeal and all speed limits are merely suggestions. I was only smart enough to know I needed more patience. God didn’t grant me my request with a sprinkling of holy water or twenty Our Fathers. No, He put me in situations that demanded patience. I have to admit I firmly believe God finds humor at times in testing us-didn’t think it possible for God to be sadistic. He sent me fender benders on the only freeway out of my section of town that added thirty minutes of waiting. He would send me to the shortest check out line at the store only to find it was either the line for training new cashiers who had no computer skills or the line with that person, you know the one, who finds every item in the store that has no price tag. He would make me take the call from that customer you’ve taken care of successfully for years who goes ballistic when 50 of his 5000 brochures weren’t folded just right. Ask and it shall be given thee-for reals!!!!
Given what I knew about the patience thing I should have expected as much from God when making my lofty request for a deeper experience. But I wasn’t prepared for what happens when God gets serious. I can only attempt to describe in words my spiritual journey this past year. I liken it to the dark portion of a haunted house, minus the screams, you know that portion where there is total darkness and many built-in dead ends and sections where the floor underneath your feet gives way and you can’t find your way except by holding on to the shirt of the person in front of you, except I had no shirt to hold on to. Darkness, silence, no direction, no voices, no clues or hints of light to guide me, and decreasing confidence with every step, having nothing to lead me except for my knowledge of His Word, which I had to force myself to recall. I had asked God to take me to new heights and He took me first to all time lows.
As Christians many of us have false conceptions of what our faith walk and life in Christ are to look like. Through false teaching and itching ears we want to believe that our journey should be one of ease, one of peace and one of tangible Osteen type blessings where our healing is just around the corner and our favorite parking spot at the mall is just waiting for us to pull in and claim. But without explanation or justification God allows the righteous to suffer illness and the nearest parking spot to be blocks away on a rainy day. Or perhaps we aren’t nearly that gullible and we realize that wanting to grow deeper in our faith requires that we be willing to endure situations too uncomfortable for us to eagerly choose on our own so that settling for mediocrity and the path of least resistance is preferred. Given the options, I can certainly understand. I felt and still feel at times like asking God what I did to cause these trials. The irony is that God was in fact answering my request and honoring me by driving me to the ocean floor where I would find just what was needed to sustain me and allow me to live at a higher level. It is the method God uses for all of us. I can’t build muscle by looking at pictures of ripped men in magazines, but by going to the gym and tearing down the smaller muscles I have now through pain and exertion.
There is yet another bird that has recently been discovered that can fly at an altitude of over 21,000 feet over the Himalayas and at commercial airline heights. I’m not sure if I want to soar that high, at least not yet. For now I’ll settle for flying over the Smoky Mountains and a diet of food at my current altitude until I catch my breath.