On January 22, 2019 the first day of the semester at Sacramento State University, I was walking from the parking garage to my office before my first class. It wasn’t raining. It was beautiful. Sunlight was waking. The chaos had not yet begun.
Walking my usual path into the central part of campus, I catch the movement of something to my right. I turn. About 9 feet away is a coyote, walking slowly, just barley off the concrete path, in the opposite direction. I blink. He is still there. He is still a coyote, not a dog, not an apparition. He is lovely, not frightened nor hurried.
Although there are several students also walking along the same path, they do not notice him. They are plugged in elsewhere. I stop and stare at the coyote. I turn around and walk slowly in the direction he is traveling, staying parallel to him. Then a student comes up beside me and also notices him. The student and I lock eyes,
The young man whispers to me, “that’s a coyote.”
“I know. He’s beautiful” I say.
We smile, as if we have just discovered an elusive treasure.
This coyote does not look like the ones I have seen many times before from afar, usually surprised or hurried. He is very close and in a different, almost surreal, context. He stops. I stop. He looks at me for a fleeting moment—no fear, no signs of aggression. He allows me to study him momentarily and then walks off.
To say the least, this encounter made my day! And, fortunately, by the afternoon, there were videos of the coyote posted to reassure me that I was still sane—at least early in the semester, anyway.
Now, ironically, that morning on my way to work, I had prayed, “Lord, help me to see what you see.” I was not expecting a coyote. Perhaps the Lord knew I needed a distraction, something to observe outside of myself. God is full of surprises.
What the coyote encounter made me think of is how we observe our surroundings and our circumstances. Sometimes we see God in the details. Sometimes we do not. What we see depends on our focus. The Holy Spirit cannot reveal spiritual truths or simple wonders to us when we are preoccupied with our own self reflections, when we see life in a mirror, instead of through God’s window.
At His last supper with His disciples, Jesus saw what the disciples could not. He saw those who loved Him, the one who would later that evening deny Him, and, of course, the one who would betray Him. Jesus set aside his very real and personal fears of impending torture and death to prepare His followers, His friends, His heirs, present and future, for His departure from this earth. He bequeathed to them, and thus, us, a very personal gift, more precious than our Mother’s pearls or our Father’s truck. He gave us a symbolic ritual, Communion, an act that would tangibly remind us of His sacrifice and love, remind us that He would still live in and through us. Moreover, He promised to send us a divine counselor, the Holy Spirit, someone to guide and refocus us when we are distracted, troubled or consumed by challenges and trials.
Jesus is never far away, His Love sacrifice is with us always. And he wants to reveal Himself to us if we but ask to see what He sees. If we set aside our own understanding and cry out for His deeper wisdom and insight, for His Holy Spirit. Whether it is a coyote sighting, a divine healing, or the tenderness of Love for a stranger, we do not need to go far to experience His extraordinary wonders, to know our Savior, our living God, and His will for each of us.
Lori Neuffer is a professor at Sacramento State University and a member of Westside Christian Church. Lori currently serves on our communion devotional team and as a member of our Celebrate Recovery Leadership team.