In a recent column I asked why, if so many people are seeking, so few are finding God. Some readers asked if I could suggest some common characteristics of seekers who DO find God.

A windy night on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state last week provided some simple illustrations.

It all began when my wife heard a noise at 2 a.m. and asked me to investigate.

I went to the back porch and found a raccoon eating at the birdfeeder and a picnic table umbrella banging against the side of the deck. Mystery solved. Or so I thought. But alas a few minutes later my lovely bride heard sounds coming from the kitchen.

A few weeks earlier some plates broke when a wind swept into the kitchen, so I quickly set about closing all the kitchen windows and securing the breakables. I dutifully reported this to my wife who asked me to please stop talking because she was trying to sleep. (I don't think she really said please).

I settled in once again only to hear sounds coming from the front of the house.

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter, when out on the porch I heard such a clatter. I swung open the front door and spotted a startled deer nibbling away at our flowers. He beat a hasty retreat when he saw a bulky, sleep-deprived hunter emerging from his cave.

This time I thought we had all the bases covered, but as I settled into bed my wife heard yet another noise coming from our teenage daughter Molly's room. Noises from teenager's rooms are not uncommon, but it was by now 3 a.m., so I cheerfully arose once again. (I don't think I was really cheerful.)

I entered to find the door between her room and bathroom swinging back and forth in the wind. She looked up bleary eyed and said, "Father, the air is blowing my door." Being a teenager, it would not, of course, have occurred to her to get up and shut it.

What does any of this have to do with finding God?

Jesus talked about a three-fold process of seeking to find, asking to receive and knocking for the door to open. It seems he understood our quest for God requires persistence and a combination of approaches. My little night-time search involved just that, and so has my lifetime pursuit of God, who can at times seem as elusive as the source of noises in the night.

The next morning another quality of our search for God came to mind.

Our eldest daughter was home from Brooklyn for the month and spent some of her time cleaning out boxes she had saved from childhood. She left one of the folders on the front porch; caught up in the wind, her papers were spread generously on the lawn and into the woods like Hansel and Gretel's bread crumbs. I headed out to retrieve them.

The first one I found was a blue paper reporting the teacher's observations about Jessie to us, her parents. The teacher said simply in the behavior comment, "What a pleasure!" I grinned as I thought about Jess as a third grader.

I then came upon a yellow sheet that said, "Miss Smiley had a good week." On the back Jess had written a note to Punxsutawney Phil thanking him for "not seeing his shadow."

Cheered by the essential goodness of my child, I entered the woods and discovered a white paper with the comment, "Miss Smiley is now Miss Chatty. Can you control it a bit, Jessie?"

The retrieval process was becoming more cumbersome and I was now risking life and limb leaning over rocks on steep inclines to nab the errant notes. But the little scraps of paper were such heartwarming reminders of my daughter's childhood that I was eager to find more.

Next came a yellow paper with the words, "A wee bit too chatty. I would like to think next week will be better." Jessie had written in the margin, "me too!" I burst out laughing.

It occurred to me that like my pursuit of more insights about Jessie, a successful search for God always leaves us wanting more, for God is beyond our complete knowing and any search will be inexhaustible, and every discovery but a prelude to the next.

And then I realized that one reason 82 percent of Americans perennially say they are spiritual seekers is that though they have found some of what they are looking for, with God there is always more to know; the persistent seeker will delight in each new find and in it discover a reason to keep searching.

Dick Staub is the author of The Culturally Savvy Christian and the host of The Kindlings Muse (www.thekindlings.com). His blog can be read at www.dickstaub.com). Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

Original publication date: August 11, 2009