Providence

My last blog post was about fear and how it is an enemy to God’s creation. When I hit the “publish” button, I had no idea there was a bit of providence trapped in those words.

Providence. Christians use that word as a synonym for fate, coincidence, or even karma: “Providence brought my husband and me together.” “It was providence that I ran into you.” “Providence gave him the election.” Just as I sometimes use hope incorrectly, I tend use providence as if it applies to the outcome of a situation. That’s not quite right.

The Latin root that gives us the word providence also gives us prudence. As God provides for us, He does so in a wise and deliberate way. His providence is in the careful planning He does to create His desired result, not in the result itself. Here’s an example:

Shortly after I left my writing-rock last week, I took a wrong turn. An hour into my hike “back to my car,” I realized I was going the wrong direction. I also realized I had about 30 minutes before a major storm was going to hit. I was lost, without mobile-phone service, without a trail map (stupid!), and in an area prone to flash flooding. And then I heard a rattlesnake. Seriously.

I had two options: turn back or move forward. These were both literal and figurative options. Was I going to retreat into my fear, or claim the very words I’d just written and trust God to get me out of this (and teach me a lesson about the importance of trail maps)? I moved forward.

About 10 minutes and 1 mile later (I was bookin’ it!), I reached a trail head–the wrong trail head. As I was staring at the park map trying to decide if I had time to make it back to my car before the storm hit, a man walked up to me. Not a bartender-boy, but a 45-year-old muscular man. He asked, “May I give you a ride to your car?” Every word of my blog–and every big-city-girl instinct screaming “run!”–came rushing back. But He continued, “Weren’t you behind us as we entered the park this morning?” Yes! I was! He and I had tried to figure out how to pay $7 to enter the park when there was no attendant there. I had even griped to him about how high Colorado taxes are! After 4 hours of hiking, I didn’t recognized him.

“You’re wearing a Hilton Head t-shirt. I’m going to trust you.” That made sense in my head, but what a stupid thing to say! He laughed and told me he was there with his wife and 2 daughters. What followed was a sweet 4 minutes of conversation with his family as he took me to my car. It was storming before I pulled out of the parking lot.

So where was the providence in my journey? Was it providence that I was dry when I climbed in my SUV, or was providence present throughout my day? If you have the time, go back and read my last post in light of this one. God was preparing me to see Him when I was stuck in a VERY messy situation of my own making. Not only did He take care of me, but He let me see just a bit of His plan and a bit of His face. The beauty of the cavern is nothing compared to Him.

Rattlesnakes and Bartenders

I am hiking by myself for the first time today. The weather forecast for Denver is 81 degrees and sun, and any Coloradan worth her salt won’t pass up such an opportunity to be outside.

I pack up my laptop, lots of water, and other supplies; and I drive about 20 minutes south to Castlewood Canyon. I picked this place for three reasons: proximity to home, flowing water, and shade trees. I did not know I’d have to pay an entrance fee of $7 for the day. Had I known that I might have chosen a different park, but my experience here is already well worth the cash paid.

(Sidenote: Don’t think I’m a cheapskate. Colorado has parks everywhere, and they are impeccably maintained. I am thankful for this and try to take full advantage of it, but I also pay for it in the form of insanely high taxes. For example, it cost David and me $86.50 to register our car for one year in Tennessee; it costs almost $1,000 here. When I nearly cried upon hearing this news at the DMV, the worker’s response was, “At least we have the mountains.” It was cold comfort then, but six months later I’m almost inclined to agree with her.)

I hike about one mile and find a huge flat rock overlooking the canyon. I can’t really see the water from here, but I can hear it and I’m not in danger of dropping my laptop in the river. I’d guess it’s about 71 degrees on my shaded, breezy rock. The only bugs I see are a few harmless ants working hard in front of me. Perfection.

Almost. Why can’t I ever completely enjoy what I’ve been given? What in this scenario can possibly cause me distress? When you enter the park there’s a sign warning of rattlesnakes. I have just about convinced myself there’s a rattlesnake at my 7:00 when 2 guys hike down to my rock. They are loudly talking about bartending school and have almost hiked past before they notice me (and my bright pink backpack).

My initial response is annoyance: On this beautiful peaceful day, how dare you stomp around yelling when it’s obvious there’s a woman working here?

Then I hear my mother’s voice in my head: What are you doing out in the woods by yourself? You don’t know these guys, and you’re holding a laptop. Get your bear spray!

As soon as they notice me, their body language changes. They look really uncomfortable and quickly and quietly hike back up to the trail muttering, “hi,” and, “sorry,” as all us hikers do when we encounter each other.

Then God hits me with His humility stick: Did it occur to you that I put them in your path? I realize that if there were a rattlesnake at my 7:00, then they would have stirred it up. And there was nothing remotely scary about these guys. My fear is gone, so I can settle down on my rock and go back to enjoying His canyon. I’m taking care of you.

God is our shelter and our strength.
When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.
So why run and hide?
No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.
When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.
When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.
Even in heavy winds and huge waves,
or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.
(Psalm 46:1–13, The Voice)

How many times have I distracted myself from enjoying God’s gifts to me? How many times has fear been that distraction? I want to be “sure and fearless.” God made this cavern for me to enjoy, and I want to honor Him by doing just that.

Oh, look, there’s a bee…