Several years ago I faced a big decision. I was offered a job, but it required me to move from Los Angeles to Utah. It was a great opportunity, but was I ready for such a big change? To discern God’s will on the matter, I figured I’d have to break out the big spiritual guns. It was an extreme situation that called for extreme measures. So I devised a plan…
Starting Friday morning, I would fast from food for the whole weekend. Then on Sunday, after church, I’d venture into the wilderness like my spiritual hero St. Francis, where I would spend the night alone in fervent prayer until I got my answer.
The closest wilderness I could find was the Santa Monica National Forest about 30 minutes outside L.A. So all weekend, I fasted, then drove out to the mountains, parked in a gravelly lot outside the trailhead and started my hike into the wild.
But my spiritual adventure hit an immediate snag. A few seconds after I stepped onto the trail, a bee flew in my face and stung me on the lip. I stopped to absorb the hot sting, telling myself it was just a fluke. Perhaps even a spiritual attack, a satanic messenger sent to thwart my holy mission.
Whatever it was, there’s nothing like a bee sting to the face to make one second guess the wisdom of such an excursion. But I wouldn’t let it deter me.
I pressed on.
A few minutes later, I passed two pretty girls hiking in the opposite direction. We nodded and I smiled at them with my swollen lip. Not exactly a lady magnet.
Not that I was there to flirt.
Lip throbbing and stomach growling, I hiked deeper into the trail until I was hedged in on either side by brush-covered canyon walls. I was searching for that perfect spot to sit with my Bible and seek God’s direction. I glanced up the rocky wall and spotted at the top — about 40 feet up — a nook shaded by cypress trees. It looked like a spot Francis would’ve approved of, so I began to scale the rock.
But about halfway up, I realized this is not a cliff that should be climbed. It didn’t look so steep from down below. But up here — hands gripping roots, feet kicking rocks and dirt to the trail below — it was a different story. My palms began to sweat as I clung to the rock.
Miraculously, I managed not to fall.
Once I reached the top, I was shaking from mild panic and hunger. The sun had dipped below the mountains and the air was getting chilly. I settled under the trees, broke out my Bible and closed my eyes to meditate…
I woke up an hour later in the dark: cold, starving, lip on fire.
Demoralized, I scurried back down the canyon wall, hiked back to my car, drove to McDonalds, and got a quarter pounder with cheese. I drove home and watched TV the rest of the night. If God wanted me to go to Utah, I figured, He’d just tell me. He didn’t need my spiritual heroics to twist His arm.
Eventually, I did get my answer. I moved to Utah for a couple years and it turned out to be a great thing. But I discerned this through simple prayer, common sense, and wise counsel, not because I impressed God with my extreme asceticism.
Prayer, fasting, and solitude are great spiritual disciplines. But sometimes, if we want God’s direction, all we have to do is ask. Then trust Him. And enjoy the cheeseburger.