Several years ago I had a very significant spiritual experience that involved a cardinal. Without getting into the back story, I will just say that whenever I see this red bird, I am reminded of God’s presence.
Recently I was praying about a challenge that I was going through and asked God if He could simply send a cardinal my way. It’s not that I doubted His presence, but I was seeking a little comfort and encouragement.
So, I sat near my window and prayed hard for this feathery friend to fly near me . . . desperately wanting to catch a glimpse of hope for my difficult situation.
Two minutes of intense staring out the window.
Surely this request of sending a bird was not difficult to fulfill. Actually, this prayer request was a lot simpler than the real challenge that I was facing--which prompted the desired visit from a cardinal in the first place.
A few more minutes of waiting, staring, searching, hoping.
Seriously God? It’s just a bird. It’s not like I am asking for it to land on my hand, do back flips in the air, transport food for survival, or verbally speak a message to me. I just want to see a cardinal today . . . Why is this too much to ask?
After a few more minutes of open air space, with no flight in sight, I accepted God’s answer and moved forward in my day.
Later that afternoon, it was time to pick my kids up from the bus stop. Several yards away from where I was positioned, I could see my daughter running towards me with an over-stretched smile across her face and a hidden object behind her back. Through my strained and squinted eyes, I could see a flash of red in her hand.
NO WAY--I thought to myself. There is no way she is holding a cardinal.
As she approached me, my daughter held out a paper creation that she had just made that day in art class.
“Do you know what it is, Mommy?” she asked jubilantly with wide-open eyes.
As I stared down at the red construction paper, I immediately felt a wink from God;)
“It’s a cardinal,” I said in an emotional tone.
“Yes! I know how much you love cardinals Mom!” My daughter was ecstatic to hand this present over to me. She further explained how her class was ahead of all the others (due to snow days) and so they were the only ones in the school that were able to create this special bonus project.
I don’t believe it was a coincidence--that the ONE DAY I asked God to show me a cardinal is the EXACT DAY that I received one.
I believe I prayed for reassurance, and graciously it was given . . . just not how I expected.
God could have easily sent an actual cardinal to fly past my window for a brief second. This temporary sight could have also turned into a fading memory of an answered prayer request. Instead of a fleeting moment, I now have a permanent visual reminder of this miraculous event.
Quite often in the Bible, people set up memorial stones to mark significant encounters with God. This was done in order to remember how God provided, protected, and guided His people.
Just like the permanent stones, my construction paper red bird will continue to remind me of the fact that God does not always reveal the answer to my prayers when I want or how I want--but quite often He surprises me in ways that I could not imagine.
How much better was it to be handed a cardinal to keep that day than to briefly see one fly by?
How much better are God’s ways than our thoughts? Thank goodness we do not always think alike--His plans are much grander than ours!
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT)
P.S. Since God was quite out of the box in His response with answering my prayer request for a cardinal, it gives me great hope that He will also exceed my expectations and creatively answer the original prayer request for my difficult circumstances on that day… In His timing, on His terms, in His way.