Friday, April 25, 2014

God in Unlikely Places

I don't know why it is. I don't know why sometimes it is hard to find God in the places you think He'd be.

I've been thinking lately, as I've witnessed a situation with people close to my heart. It's not something I can really write about here, but I'll say there has been lots to it relates to unspeakable pain; forgiveness; belief; and love.

I've been thinking about what it means to be a Christian. I've been thinking about fishes on cars, church services and Sunday school lessons and communion juice in little cups.

I've been thinking about that verse in the Bible that talks about people in the last days "having a form of godliness but denying its power" and James asking "What good is your faith?" and wondering, am I one of those people?

I've been wondering how in the world to love God and holiness without being a legalist, a Pharisee. I've been wondering how to be in the world but not of it.

People like to ask "Where is God?" when bad things happen. And people like to joke, on bumper stickers and the like, "God, save me from your followers." There are times I can't blame them. And there are times my heart wants to break because sometimes Christians are just people trying too hard; and that's when so many things can go awry.

I read an article recently in Charisma magazine about atheists and what drove them to believe as they do. Most, sadly, had once been Christians. And those atheists who ended up turning to Christianity? Every one of them had had an experience; an encounter; something that had happened that left them transformed and unable to deny the reality of God.

That's what I want. Not to play church. Not routine and regulation. Reality.

I started thinking about where I've seen God; known God; felt God; heard God.

I've seen Him in the perfect fingers of my newborn; shooting stars over Flying Pond in Maine; the intricate, delicate endless petals of spring flowers -- sure signs that this world cannot be here by chance, without the touch of a Creator.

I've heard Him (or I should say, He heard me) that day in the car, tears streaming down my face, after another incident with my brother gone terribly awry, where I begged with every ounce of my being that if God was listening, that He would do something in that very moment to show we weren't so alone. That next second my mom pulled over and stopped the car. She turned to me with renewed strength and said that we couldn't give up.

I've seen Him in the note from a friend when Ethan was first born, where she shared Isaiah 43 (Do not fear, for I have redeemed you...when you pass through the waters, they will not sweep over you, when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned): a verse she'd had no way of knowing I'd read again and again and again after Ethan was diagnosed.

I've known Him when hands were laid on my head by a complete stranger who prayed things about me no one could have possibly known.

I've seen and heard Him on signs in front of churches and in songs on the radio, those sweet, simple messages right when I needed them.

I've felt Him in all kinds of places...that night at my friend's house when we sat outside staring at the sky and talking about the end of the world...the day after 9/11, working at the hospital, when hundreds of people, even sick patients, lined the halls wanting to donate the sound of my grandmother's voice, singing "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves the Little Children" as she tucked us into bed at night.

I see Him when I see people who have been horribly wronged let go of all bitterness and hatred and do the impossible -- forgive and love the person who committed the evil with a love that cannot be their own.

That, I want. I want a faith that does the impossible. A faith that spurs me to be less of me and more of Him. I want to live with an unoffended heart. I want God to dwell in the most unlikely of places: in me, the doubter, simultaneously full of pride and self-distain, fear and faith, trust and despair.

I don't want to have all the answers. I want to point people solidly away from me and to the answer, all the while still struggling to believe, then struggling to believe God can use the ones who waver.

This is my hope. This is my prayer.

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