Cloudless blue skies. 50 degree weather. Low humidity. A perfect day for hiking. I parked my truck on Highway 40 at the trailhead for the Florida National Scenic Trail.
I was slowly making progress, alone with my thoughts, wrapped in solitude. I was 4 miles into my 8.5 mile route when suddenly the loud thumping rotors of a helicopter shattered the quiet.
He passed right over, no more than 500 feet above. Actually, it was kind of exciting! I hiked another 2/10s of a mile, and then he buzzed me again. Now I'm wondering, "What in the world...?"
From my GPS I knew I was close to the clay road I had picked as the turnaround point for my out-and-back hike. As I emerged out of the woods onto the road, a white truck was blocking my path. "What in the world...?"
A former military man got out of the truck. So here was the deal. While I was quietly hiking along, a $14 billion aircraft carrier was cruising just off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. Top gun pilots and their crews had just completed all the pre-flight checks on each of their $60 million (each) F-18 fighter jets.
They were minutes away from scrambling their jets for the sub-10 minute sortie to the Pinecastle Bombing Range where they would be assisted by a full ground and radar crew to practice annihilating Middle Eastern terrorists by strafing a mocked up caravan with live bombs. It was a complex mission with many moving parts that had been months in the making. All taking placing to the immediate west of the Florida National Scenic Trail.
And then there was me. Merrily hiking along, alone, but not quite as alone as I thought, clueless about how intertwined I had become in a much bigger picture.
As the chopper hovered overhead, the nice man explained everything. He didn't seem upset that I had almost aborted what must have been $10,000,000+ training exercise. I gave the pilot a wave, and he peeled off. The man drove me back to my truck.
As he dropped me off I was able to present him a signed copy of The Man in Mirror. Wouldn't it be something if that book hit home with him?
Let's face it. We are never as alone as we think. We are always part of a bigger picture. As well informed as we may think we are, there's a lot more going on here than we will ever understand. Occasionally, like on my hike, we get a glimpse, but most of the time we'll never hear about. And God may use you for the greater purpose of his will in what seems like a random situation.
So how should we respond when it feels like we're all alone, maybe even forgotten? Remember this: God doesn't do "random." God isn't caught off guard by what's happening to you. He doesn't say, "Oops! I didn't see that coming." He knows exactly where you are on the trail. And he is sovereignly orchestrating all human events, even our seemingly random circumstances, to guide us to him and to each other. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:11, he "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."
"What in the world...? I thought I was just taking a hike!"