I decided to search for God in the mountains, alone, and so I did, numerous times. Perhaps if I knocked long and hard, heaven’s gates would open to me. I remember the first time that I drove up to a place called Prayer Mountain, near Divide, Colorado, climbed from my flashy red sports car, and entered a small cabin that was to be my home until I awakened God from his slumber.
But the heavens were like granite that day. I did all I knew to do without the faintest whisper of response from above. For hours I read the Word that had moved me so many times. That day, not a breath.
The second day, I headed out into the fields, thinking that perhaps if I were surrounded by nature’s beauty I would be able to hear a call from beyond. The grass was tall and brown. Dead. Rocks lay on the dirt, totally oblivious to my presence. Certainly not groaning in anticipation of their liberation.
There I begged God to show himself. Speak to me, since you surely do exist. Anything will do. Just one whisper of confirmation.
But the only whisper I heard was from the wind blowing gently through pine trees. I felt nothing. I grew despondent. Empty and depressed.
Oddly enough, I grew terribly tired. So I lay down in the field of swaying brown grass, closed my eyes, and slipped into a slumber.
I didn’t realize it then, but I was a real, live, slumbering Christian in the flesh. I had grown tired of my failure to awaken God. My hopelessness had lured me into a comforting sleep.
The sun was dipping when I awoke. I suddenly became desperate. Show me yourself, I cried. I began to dig at the earth with my fingers.
Show me where you are. Are you here, in this ground, hidden by the dirt? Nothing.
I grabbed a piece of rotted wood. Then here, in this wood. Surely there is evidence of you in this wood that you yourself made! Nothing. Nothing.
I felt like that bird looking for its mother in the children’s book again. “Are you my mother?” I hadn’t been able to find my mother as a child, and now my Father was evading me.
I was quite taken with the idea of being touched by God there and then, because that was as far as I could see. Like the impatient lover about to be wed, I was demanding the wedding now. And if the wedding couldn’t happen now, then I had no hope for a wedding tomorrow, certainly no hope for a wedding twenty years from now. The thought of a wedding twenty years from now wasn’t even in my mind. I was asleep to any such hope. The church didn’t talk about, much less care about, such hopes, and neither did I.
I ripped away the bark and dug deep into the rotted wood, and I was about to hurl the piece into the wind when something caught my eye. A tiny, nearly microscopic creature crawling from a crevice.
Life! Life where I had been sure there was none.
I pulled back more bark. More tiny creatures. A whole world of them, thriving just behind the skin of this wood, unseen by any other human being before this moment. But the fact that they were unseen had no bearing whatsoever on their existence. They were real, discovered by humans or not. Very, very real.
I jumped over to a large dried-out log sticking up in the fading sun. I studied its surface. Not a single creature. I looked long and hard. Not a single stir.
Ah, but if I dug beyond the surface, past the skin…
Life! I knew it! I was staring at something similar to the kingdom of God, I thought. It’s here, I just can’t see it. I can’t feel it. For all practical purposes, it doesn’t even exist for me.
I walked back to the cabin, feeling as depressed as I can ever remember feeling. My faith and knowledge of God’s kingdom had become unshakable in the many months leading up to this moment, but I wasn’t interested in knowing. I wanted to touch, to taste, to feel that kingdom!
I lost track of time as I sat at my desk reading the Word. It wasn’t speaking to me. I stared out at the fading light and watched darkness shut down day. It was deathly quiet outside. I was alone. A lost child in search of his father.
I lowered my eyes and resumed reading Isaiah chapter 1. What happened in that moment, I still can’t adequately describe to this day. By now you know that I was no stranger to isolation and plumbing the depths of my mind and soul and spirit, so I can’t say that my environment had much to do with what transpired next. But for no particular reason, the verse I was reading seemed to leap from the page and sear my mind.
I can’t remember what verse it was-that wasn’t the point. Something had changed in the room. I lifted my eyes and blinked. The place seemed to be charged with an electrical current.
Once again I lowered my eyes and began to read. The words flowed into my mind with stunning power, and I began to cry softly. Heaven was raining on me.
I read more, and what had been a rain suddenly became a waterfall, thundering down from heaven, crashing over my head with a power that shook my body. I tilted my head toward the ceiling, slumped in the chair, and began to sob loudly enough to scatter the tiny creatures on the rotten logs outside. My Father was talking to me. He was reaching down from heaven and whispering a few words into my ear. But to me it felt like the Atlantic Ocean was pouring over my body. I sat in that chair for hours, unable to stop the flood. I continued to read from Isaiah, but now every word screamed with power and meaning that mere mortals couldn’t possibly comprehend. I read the same passage today and feel nothing of what I felt then, so I know this is true.
I can’t remember anything else that happened that weekend; the rest of my time is still overshadowed by this one blessed visitation from my Father. For a month, I walked on clouds. I would walk into church, any church, and begin to cry for no reason.
Everything had come alive to me. The trees, the roads, the cars-a bird could chirp over my head, and I would shed a tear of joy.
And the music. I could not finish any worship song I started. My throat would seize up midword and I would sit like a helpless puppy, overcome by emotion.
I would say that I lived in heaven for a month, but I know this isn’t entirely true. Instead, I tasted heaven, and that one taste nourished me for a month.
And then a strange thing happened. The feelings faded. Gradually my former life once again became the norm. I tried to solicit another bath from heaven, but the heavens had been plugged up. Slowly, gradually, over the course of many months, my passion for that generous gift was once again overshadowed by the reality of this life.
I visited the mountain again, a different mountain this time.
Once again I was blessed, though not in the same way. Once again the experience faded. Like all good food and all foretastes of glory divine, the nourishment passed. And the wonder of it all began to fade.
I wanted more, but I couldn’t find more. And eventually I began to once again tire of my search for this kind of happiness. It’s not unlike going to the altar frequently for a couple of years and then losing confidence in the church’s ability to sustain you. You see, my focus was on the immediate benefits of that experience. My focus was on the blessing to be had then and there, but those blessings invariably faded.
Ted Dekker The Slumber of Christianity. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2005, p. 52-56.