We All Need Space

As I'm writing this, I'm preparing to head out into the woods to spend the night camping and sleeping in my hammock. My pack is sitting against a bookshelf next to my desk, and I cannot wait to get to my campsite tonight. For some people, the idea of sleeping in the woods where there are bears, bugs, and cold is about as enticing as drinking motor oil. For me, however, it's my happy place. The solitude of the outdoors is like nothing else. Feeling the cool air on my face, sitting by the fire, and sleeping under the stars gives me a peace that is second only to the peace I have in Jesus. There's a connection for me with nature that is hard for some to understand. It's nature, though, that brought me the peace of truly knowing that the God we serve is real and active.

The devotional thought today is going to be a little different. I want to share with you how the solitude of nature actually pulled me out of a very dark pit in my life. I'm going to share with you how my disbelief transformed into a complete, sold-out disciple.

In the summer of 1993, I traveled in a singing ministry group from Kentucky Christian College called VIP. We traveled all summer to church camps and VBS programs. I met a crazy amount of ministers and other college students who were all on the same trajectory that I was supposed to be on. I say, "supposed" because I was going through a crisis of belief. When I went to Bible College, I never expected to see, hear, or experience some of the things I did. Maybe I was naive coming out of high school, but I thought going to a Bible College would mean I would be around people seeking after God. That's not to say that many of the students were, but I was shocked by how many really weren't. I was offered marijuana by an upperclassman the day I arrived on campus. There were students sneaking off to get wasted on the weekend. Several of the guys I met were sexually active with their girlfriends. I was disheartened and really started to question what I believed. How could these people sit in chapel services and raise their hands in worship to God, then turn around and do awful things over the weekend?

By the end of the first semester, I was dating a girl that I was ready to propose to. She had become my world. I gave her as much of my time as she would take. We were in "love" and lived in the euphoria of bible college romance. I remember proposing to her and realizing I would spend the rest of my life with her. Obviously, that didn't happen, and both of us are very thankful for that. Even in our relationship, we weren't necessarily the most holy couple. We had our struggles, and that bothered me, too. I honestly started to doubt almost everything about what I thought I believed.

Once summer arrived, and I was getting ready to head out to our first camp, I realized that I was, for all intents and purposes, an atheist. I was getting ready to go out and teach, preach, and lead worship to a God I had no belief in. I was calloused and bitter. This travel team, though, gave me scholarship money that really helped me be able to stay in college. I figured that would be enough motivation to fake it until I make it. At that first camp in Corbin, KY it really looked like I was right. No one was on to me. Well, I didn't think anyone was.

One night, the assistant dean of the week of camp, Doug Martin, pulled me aside and asked if we could talk. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, "You don't believe any of this, do you?" I was completely caught off guard. "No" I said. Doug asked me if I wanted to believe, and trust me, I really wanted to. There was just a huge block. I had a desire to be a believer, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Doug assured me that he wouldn't "out" me to everyone, but it was on one condition. He asked me to get up each morning before the students and go find a quiet place to read scripture. He didn't care what I read. He just wanted me to read it each morning in a place where no one could distract me.

So, I did exactly that. I found a place each morning to read scripture away from everyone. I did this for about six weeks. The seventh week, we were in Vansant, VA, at a camp on top of a mountain. Each morning, I would sit on this bench overlooking the valley below. On Thursday of that week, the sky was amazing. The fog had lifted out of the valley like a huge cloud. The sky was all these shades of orange, purple and yellow. A flock of birds flew by, and a deer ran out of the woods in front of me. After being taken aback by what I was seeing, I read from Psalm 8.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8:1–9

I began to tear up as I realized that this world was no accident. There was an artistic hand involved in the creation of everything around me. There was an intrinsic beauty that couldn't be explained by a big bang or random evolution. I was in the midst of a masterpiece created by the Master Himself. Had I not taken the time to find a solitary place where my only focus was on what God was trying to tell me, I may have never come back to my faith. Doug knew I needed to be reminded of Who God is, and that wasn't going to happen if all I did was hang out with noisy kids all week. I needed that quiet of the morning for God's voice to be heard in my life.

Do you find yourself struggling from time to time with your faith? Is it hard for you to believe there is a God in the midst of all this craziness in our world? Better yet, are you finding a quiet place where you are allowing God to speak into you? As hard as it may be to do, find that place. Protect it with your life. Don't let anyone intrude on that time with your Father. Make the choice to give Him the time He deserves, and give you the quiet you need to hear Him.


Emily - February 2nd, 2024 at 11:48pm

Thanks for sharing this! That’s a wonderful testimony 🙌🏻

- February 5th, 2024 at 8:06am

Thank you!