I looked at the clock.
It was 6:00 a.m.
I thought about going back to sleep. My eyelids were heavy, my body was relaxed, and I knew more sleep would come.
If I would let it.
It was peaceful in the cabin — all my chicks were in the nest, and I could hear each of them breathing to their own rhythm. I could smell the cool mountain air.
Family camp. In Colorado.
It’s my favorite place in the world, and my favorite week of the year.
And it’s moments like these that set it apart from any other vacation we could take.
But I also love the quiet time I get with the Lord, right there on that mountain, if I can muster the strength to will myself out of bed early and take the brief walk up to the front porch of the lodge, where coffee, rocking chairs, and hummingbirds are waiting to greet me.
It’s in this place that I hear God speak.
So I drug myself out of bed, dressed, grabbed my Bible, and walked out the front door.
My family didn’t stir.
I was surprised by the blanket of fog that had settled over camp. It enveloped me as I stepped off the porch and onto the path up to the lodge.
It was so dense that I couldn’t see more than about 10 feet in front of me. And though I’m sure it was my imagination, everything seemed quieter in the fog.
When I got to the lodge, I was disappointed because the fog had stolen my view of the mountains. A view that I had counted on to set the backdrop for my quiet time.
A disappointment that made me think I should have stayed in bed.
But I settled in, opened my Bible, and turned to the book of Exodus.
And on that mountain, in that fog, God began to speak.
The first half of the book of Exodus is a gripping narrative. It’s the story of the Israelites, shackled by the bonds of slavery in Egypt and yet claimed by God at the same time. It’s a story where we witness God free the Israelites from slavery, deliver them out of Egypt, and set them out on their journey to the promised land.
Yet their journey is long. We find them wandering in the wilderness for forty years.
The Israelites didn’t know where they were going.
They didn’t have a map or itinerary.
All they had was a promise from God:
… [T]hen you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord. — Exodus 6:7-8
The thought of that.
Taking a road trip with no plans goes against every cell in my body. Because I’m a planner. I like plans. I like maps. And I don’t like getting lost!
Yet I can relate to the Israelites. I’ve been wandering in my own “wilderness” for over two years now. But when I speak of it, I haven’t referred to it as a wilderness.
I’ve referred to it as a fog.
Two years ago, I knew exactly who I was.
I was a passionate leader in the church we served.
I was active and connected in the school our kids attended.
I had lots of friends.
And I had people who I counted on and who I knew counted on me.
Life was comfortable. And my roots were deep.
But then we moved. And so many of those things I clung to as part of my identity vanished. It was a figurative death for me. A death of the life I knew. And loved. And counted on.
The loss of the parts of my life that brought me joy and fulfillment was hard. But that loss also exposed, for the first time, other areas of my life where I was barely hanging on. Those vulnerable places became the “elephant in the room” I could no longer ignore.
I lost my purpose.
My vision for the future.
A fog had settled in.
I found myself turning in circles, going this way and that. I tried to find a path, but like a pen in a Spirograph, I kept coming back to the same place.
Over and over again.
The thoughts in my head ran wild and incomplete, to the point that their voices became constant white noise in the fog. I felt distracted. Frenetic. And anxious.
Yet I felt God tugging.
I felt God nudging.
I felt God speaking.
I just didn’t know what He was saying.
I wandered for a long time, pleading for God to lift the fog. Over time, though, I noticed that, while my vision was impaired, my sense of hearing began to improve. And I considered the possibility that the long-term vision I had in my “old life” cast a shadow on the subtle ways in which God may have been speaking to me during that season.
With my vision gone, I had no choice but to focus only on my very next step. And, then, I began to hear God’s quiet voice in the fog:
Read this book.
Support this cause.
Make this change.
Reach out to her.
Volunteer for that.
Go to this conference.
I had a choice to make.
Or my own way.
So I made a commitment. To respond. To follow. And to obey. And like the markers on a hiking trail, God’s voice began to lead me to a path, one step at a time.
Through the fog.
I’m still in the fog. And in many respects, I’m still wandering.
Because I don’t have a long-term vision.
I don’t have a long-range goal.
But my senses of sound and touch are heightened. I’m hearing God more clearly and feeling His presence in a more tangible way.
My vision is sharpening, and the fog is lifting.
Because I know what my very next steps must be.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God…”
This seems so simple, but it isn’t an easy scripture for me to embrace. I’m a doer and nothing feels less helpful to a journey out of the fog than to “be still”. But learning to embrace the heart of Psalm 46:10 has been a critical step for me. God will meet us where we are. If we’re running around in circles, though, we may miss Him pass by.
So be Still.
And know that He is God.
Based on past experience, I know that the quality of my relationship with God directly correlates to the amount of time I spend in prayer, worship, and study. Yet this has been an ongoing struggle for me the last two years.
When I finally found the resolve to seek God first daily, it began to change everything. And I’ve realized that seeking God first is the key. Because when I give God my first moments, I give Him the rest of my day to work out those things He is speaking to me. So seek God. Give God your first moments. And do it every day.
While I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, I’ve had many experiences where God has “spoken” to me very specifically. The first few times this happened, I wasn’t sure whether it was God or my own subconscious thought. But as I stepped out in obedience and received God’s confirmation through my experiences, I began to learn the difference between God’s voice and my own.
I don’t always get this right. And it’s not always easy. But each time I choose obedience, I get better at it. So when I hear God prompting me to do something in the fog, I’m choosing obedience. Even when it doesn’t make sense. I encourage you to do the same. When you hear God speaking you into action, take a leap of faith. And see what happens.
Your journey through the fog will certainly be different from mine. It may be longer or shorter. And it will be borne out of a varying degree of difficulty. But I believe this to be true for all of us. While we can’t control the circumstances that brought us to this place, we can choose how we will live while we’re here. And I’m finding that life can be well-lived, even in the fog.