God often reinforces His messages in nature. It is not unusual for people to have amazing experiences on a silent retreat by observing something in nature. One woman told me she was so still sitting on a bench that a deer came right up to her, nose-to-nose, to check her out. This made her feel honored and special to God. He knew just what would make her feel loved like no one else in the world. On this year’s Lenten Silent Retreat, a woman told a story of how butterflies landed on her legs, then danced and played together, then specifically landed by her watch to reinforce the message she had been receiving from God that it is time for the new work He is doing in her. My message from nature was very messy.
While enjoying the ducks and birds around the quiet pond, I heard a disruption behind me. I turned around to see some kind of animal clinging to a tree. I was so far away that I could not make it out, but it seemed to have wings; yet it was clinging upside down on the branch like a bat. It was too far in the distance to see it clearly. I kept staring, eventually wondering if it were a bag caught in the tree. I tried to take a picture, but I was too far away for my camera too. I had never seen an animal like it before and thought I would ask the hostess later what it could be. I stopped trying to figure it out when I heard a splash in the pond and turned to see what looked like a duck diving his head under and out of the water. Then he seemed to stop and take a rest. It was a mystery. I realized that I might never know what kind of animal it was but that God did know and that is good enough. I accepted the mystery. This reinforced the personal lesson I was receiving from God, that He knew why a certain experience was happening to me. Although I couldn’t figure it out, I could trust the mystery. Grateful for my lesson, I shared it after the butterfly story, and that is the moment when the mystery was solved based on the other observations. My experience prompted others to fill in the blanks. It was like a detective story unfolded as the room full of people who experienced this event from different angles exposed the mystery. I had seen the bird that was shot by someone across the pond, one person saw a woman with the rifle, and many heard the shot. (I had dismissed the shot as a car backfiring.) I cannot say with absolute certainty that it was the victim of gunshot that I observed, but I’m pretty confident that is was the answer to the strange animal I had seen. It seemed to make sense.
We don’t always get answers to the mysteries of life, and the cross communicates that most strongly! The cross was foolishness to Jews and Greeks, but it is the power of God to those who believe. How can one death on the cross forgive the sins of all the sinners who have ever been born? Why did it need to be a cross? Why did Jesus need to shed His blood? Why did He need to be high and lifted up? God alone knows the answers to the mystery of the cross. I Corinthians 1:18-19 explains: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’”
The message of the cross is a wonderful mystery whose explanations continue to relate to my personal life. I find all the answers to all the suffering of my personal life answered by time spent meditating on the cross. How can a means of carrying out death in the most humiliating way become the most beautiful symbol of love that ever existed? It is a beautiful mystery.
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