It was a dreary, overcast day. I had attempted to escape the city (Melbourne, Australia) by catching a train to the very end of the line, and then walking as far into the bush as I could. Consequently, I was rather disappointed when, after walking for quite a while, I found the track did not diverge from the road, but opened onto a picnic area packed with people. There were buses, kids, cars and senior citizens swarming all over the place. After several minutes spent desperately scanning the area, I was relieved to see a path nearby that looked delightfully deserted.
A few minutes later, away from cars and people, I began to enjoy the greenery and solitude. Then I heard a sound that stopped me dead in my tracks. I had never heard a lyrebird before, but I immediately recognized it. The call of the lyrebird is a distinctive medley of bird sounds combining the laugh of the kookaburra, the bell of the bellbird and the warble of the magpie, along with a number of other unidentifiable sounds.
Being a bird lover, the effect on me was what one might expect of a teenage boy if he were handed the keys of a Porsche for a test drive. The sound was quite close, and I sent up a quick prayer, "Please God, let me see it." I went three steps off the path and there it was, just behind some bushes, scratching at the ground. The experience lasted only seconds before it disappeared. I badly wanted more. However, rather than attempting pursuit, I sat down, and, in light of my previous success, sent up another prayer, "Please, God, let me see that beautiful bird again..." Being the down-to-earth sort I added, "...within the next half-an-hour."
For half an hour I sat praying (in a very one-track-minded way), thinking about faith and being eaten alive by insects. I didn't entirely expect my prayer to be answered--it seemed a rather ridiculous request, but I desperately wanted to see the lyrebird again, and I figured it was worth a try. After half an hour to the minute I stood up and muttered, "Thy will be done," and started to walk away.
Then I heard the lyrebird again. It sounded so close I felt compelled to follow its call, just in case God had changed His mind. Failing utterly to walk quietly along the gravel path, I followed the sound hopefully. And then, there it was in front of me. Unperturbed by my noisy intrusion, the lyrebird was singing on a log, just a few meters away. It was such a magnificent sight it brought tears to my eyes. Eventually it left at an odd, wobbling run. But this time I was quite satisfied, and my prayer was one of thanks.
In that moment of elation as I watched the lyrebird disappear into the bushes for a second time, an interesting thought struck me: If God had brought the lyrebird back to where I had seen it in the first place, I would have had a very poor view of it among the dense bushes, and would not have been able to appreciate its full beauty.
The experience brought to mind Matthew 7:11, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" It made me realize that, not only does God give good things to us, but often what He has in mind is much better than our request.