When I was 13, I went on a weekend church trip to Lake Tiak-O’khata near Louisville, MS. On our first morning there, our leader encouraged us to go spend some time alone with our Bible and listen for God. So, I decided to walk a short ways into the woods behind our cabin for my quiet time with God.
After spending a few minutes reading and praying, I decided it was time to return to the cabin, and I began walking back from where I had come — or so I thought. But after a few tentative steps in the woods, it became painfully obvious that the cabin was nowhere in sight, and as I surveyed in all directions, there was not even a sign of civilization. It slowly began to dawn on me that I was lost in the woods and had no idea how to get back.
At that moment, an overwhelming fear gripped me, and I began running through the woods, tears of panic streaming down my cheeks. I was running full speed through underbrush and thorns, my arms and legs bleeding from the cuts. At the moment my fear peaked, I suddenly stopped, fell down to my knees in the undergrowth and cried out to God to please help me.
What I remember next was an immediate and overwhelming calmness settling over me, and for the first time in several minutes I stood up, quit crying and began to assess my situation. I realized I could hear a piece of machinery running in the distance, and so I headed that direction. I had taken only a few steps towards the sound when I came upon a narrow dirt trail, and on the trail was written in large letters with an even larger circle around it “First Baptist Church” with an arrow pointing the way out of the woods.
You see, the day before a few of us had hiked into the woods and were led by a guy who knew those woods and had been there many times before. He had drawn markers in the dirt in case anyone came behind us and needed to know the way out. Little did either of us know at the time that I would be that guy.
As I finally walked out of the woods that morning and made my way to the cabin, our group had gathered outside in a large circle praying. I silently slipped into the circle and joined them. My prayer that morning was a new and different one. My quiet time had been anything but quiet, and I realized, probably for the first time, that although I had heard all my life how much God cared for me, that day He demonstrated it to me in a real and undeniable way.
Many years and a lot of life later, I occasionally experience times when I ask, “God are you there?” Then I think back to the woods of Lake Tiak-O’khata and how he rescued a frightened young boy from himself and I always know the answer is yes.