I had been here before…3 times prior to this one to be exact.
I was in Montana again..an annual Christian spiritual retreat that I go on every September with about 15 guys. We read scripture, reflect, hike, horseback ride, and seek God on things that are deep in our hearts.
It is day 1 and we start out with rest and reflection. There are a few favorite places of mine on the ranch, one is on the deck of the bunkhouse that overlooks the creek (one of my favorite places to fall asleep). Another is on top of the hay bails that are stacked way over on the other side of the creek. One is the chapel, a small one room wooden structure with 8 pews and a stained glass picture of Jesus.
But, my favorite place on the ranch is the clover fields. I have reasons that go deep in my soul…some that I understand, some that I do not…but let me try to explain. The bunkhouse is on one side of the fence with the creek, footbridges, and chapel. When you go out the front of the bunkhouse, across the road, slip through the wire fence, jump a creek, walk up the incline, and then through a tall line of grass, you step out onto a clover field that is cut very close to the ground. When I cross the road and slip through the fence, it’s like crossing barriers that angels have set in place…and when you step out onto the great fields, it’s like you are stepping onto the soft green floors of a great hallowed hall. Steep rocky hills to the opposite side of the fields are like fortified walls around this great hall.
I meet God there in these trips.
On my first walk of the field that I had done the previous day on this trip, I spent several hours wandering in it, on it, around it, through it. On all sides of the field were a barrier of tall grass and weeds. Yesterday in walking the perimeter, about mid-way up the field, I found a thistle bush where the flower had not yet faded and the plant died, scattering its seeds. It was alone in its bloom with purple flowers bright and vibrant…a hundred purple spikes bound together to give beauty to an otherwise prickly bush.
Today, I was drawn here again…felt an impression to go here in this quiet time…it was one of those “I think God’s telling me something” moments. So I went.
I wandered up and watched as I came to this place halfway up this gigantic field…what was I looking for, what would I see? Would I see one of the moose that was supposed to hang out next to the pond near me, would I see the wolves again as they tracked the deer? What was the reason I was drawn to this plant? I looked, I wondered, I prayed, I waited…but nothing came to me, no moose was seen, no wolves…no answer. I wanted an answer and tried to make something fit…but the truth was nothing did. I did my quiet time and then headed back towards the bunkhouse.
On my way back I looked for other flowering thistle bushes…but all that I saw were grey/brown, dead, scattering their seeds into the wind. I pondered the one I had been next to…it was in full bloom and beauty, full of life…and all the others I passed were past their bloom. It had to obviously be a late bloomer, right? Out of timing with the other similar plants…
A thought interrupted my thinking, “Just as you are…but you will bloom.”
I paused in my walk back to the bunk house…I’m going to say that was you God…not a simple thought in my head.
I’ll tuck that one away for the future…was that God? Only the future will show.
In life, God has things for us…those things are not about cars and houses and 401ks, like our lives are…they are about things of the heart, about healing, about His work and His purposes. We sometimes put our expectations on things, missing that God’s plan is bigger and better than what we imagine…it’s full of life and healing and helping others.
It’s our expectations that get in the way, that cloud our lives, that deal us a hand of disappointment over and over and over and over. I had expectations that God was going to do something that I wanted Him to do…meet up with a moose or wolves. Instead I should have been ‘expectant’ to meet up with Him and then let Him provide the surprise.
The surprise is that some times you’re hoping to meet up with something that might not be good for you like a couple hungry wolves or a pissed off moose with an attitude…instead you meet God…who has good things planned for you… where wolves and moose do not.