God woke me up early this morning, around 4:45 am. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I laid there hoping the sand man would drop off a generous portion of his sweet elixir. No such luck. Simone started rustling around in her room. I could hear her faint whines, so I got up out of bed and just stood on the outside of her closed door poised to dart in to her bedside should her whine erupt into a full on cry. As I stood there wiping the sleep from my eyes, I realized that this was exactly what I had prayed for just before going to bed last night. I asked God to wake me up early, before my three-year old bounded into the bedroom to nestle in with us. I told God that I wanted some quite time where I could talk to Him (caveat: be careful what you ask God for). :)
Once I came to the realization that this was God answering my prayer, I backed away from Simone's door. She wasn't going to wake up. God had simply succeeded in getting me out of bed, and now I was up for good. I immediately went downstairs and made a cup of coffee. I really wanted to make good on my commitment to spend some quiet time with Him. With my extra large cup of freshly brewed coffee in hand, I stepped outside onto our patio, pulled up a chair and took a moment to notice my surroundings.
Besides the fallen leaves, the carcass of a decaying beetle, and the ankle high weeds that lined the deck floor, I was alone. There is a small cluster of trees that frame the front side of our patio wall. Their branches, jumble together so that you can't tell one set of limbs from the next. They sort of hang over our patio like intertwined fingers pursed tightly together, which is nicely suited for privacy and which also provides a great shade in the summer time. However some times the shrubbery can get so dense that you can hardly make out the visitors that traverse the stems bounding from one arm to the next. Nevertheless I scouered the thickets and realized that they hadn't drawn any guests. I could hear the unnatural sound of the neighbors air conditioning unit invading the stillness of the morning and fought hard to block it out as I closed my eyes in a posture of prayer.
When I pray, I usually envision myself in what I picture to be the throne room where God sits in heaven. I am extremely visual and find that this method of visualization helps me to focus on God when I pray, rather than the million and one other things that are racing through my mind at that moment. Anyway, I am aware that my lame attempts at creating this image of heaven don't do it's greatness any justice. Nonetheless, I make the attempt. As I am praying--crying out to God--my prayer is briefly interrupted by the sound of the hostile air conditioning unit nearby shutting off. For some reason this novel silence breaks my concentration away from my original prayer and, with eyes still shut, I begin to take note of the posture of my body in my imagination.
I had never really paid this much attention before. During this revelation, I was on my knees before God with my face as far into the floor as it could possibly go. My hands were extended in front of me as far as they could stretch. The position I was in looked quite uncomfortable. Especially since after three knee replacement surgeries, I know that my knees don't bend like that anymore. Kneeling before, what I imagine to be, God seemed both unnatural and laborious. My position on the ground afforded me a limited perspective, so I assume that it was God that I was kneeling before. I could see the floor with clarity; I could see the foot of God, but never His face. That is the way it has always been when I go before the Lord in prayer.
Now, just to give you some idea the scene's scale, the height of my entire body is about one tenth the size of God's pinky toe (btw did I mention God is always barefoot). So, there I am in the throne room of grace. I am all alone on the cold hard floor some distance from God's feet. That is the way I always envision myself as I am brining my cares before God. There, on my patio deck, I realize what a lonely discomforting picture I have of Who God is.
Saddened by my finite understanding of God's imminence, I immediately open my eyes and begin to cry. In the midst of the chaos of my life, I never really felt the closeness of God. I have always experienced Him as this distant force remotely orchestrating the events of my life. I never experienced Him as being near to me. As I wiped the tears from my eyes and my blurred sight came into focused I noticed a small rustling in the trees. I was startled. Usually the stillness of the morning betrays any movement in the trees.
I peered into the dense foliage more closely to distinguish a tiny bird barely noticeable at first, but once I could make out his small frame, he seemed so ostentatious. "That's strange. How long had he been there?" I thought to myself, as I hadn't noticed him before. I didn't hear him fly into the trees. Had he been there this whole time and I just hadn't seen him? That's when it hit me?
God was speaking to me through my nestling visitor. I thought that I was all alone out on the patio this morning. Yet, right there with me the whole time was my invisible observer. Indeed he had been there all along and so has God. I began to see clearly what God was telling me in the quietness. The confusion of the branches represented the shambles of my past. God was always there with me during the various times and places in my life when I felt most alone; when I felt distanced from Him. Except, now God was giving me a new understanding of Who He is in relation to my suffering. Just like that tiny bird had been there perched in the confusion of the branches, so God had been with me.
At that moment, I revisited my prayer poster. Only this time, I wasn't sprawled out on the cold floor like some awkwardly discarded folding chair. I was climbing up God's gynormous leg into His welcoming hand, which were now holding me near. His hands. No longer were they absent from the picture as they had been before. His nail scarred hands had become apart of my understanding of who God is to me now. It feels great to be able to envision God's hands holding me as I am sitting poised onto His lap, and looking up towards His all encompassing face. How have I managed for this long without knowing this feeling? I now refer to this new prayer poster as my "time with my Father".
And the closing of the matter is this, with my new understanding of God as my Daddy, rather than just some distant force, I can sense His closeness to me now more than ever. This is a feeling that I won't soon forget. I welcomed this new prayer poster and all of the secrets that it will reveal.