Monday, May 16, 2011

"And Then God Showed Up..."

There are certain catch-phrases bandied about by Christians that drive my theological sensibilities a bit batty. "And then God showed up..." has always been near the top of the list.

I think it drives me crazy because it assumes that there are times when God is not around. I'm not trying to deny, of course, that we all go through seasons of time when we can feel as though God is absent. Sometimes this may be due to our own sin or apathy ("prone to wander, Lord, I feel it...") Sometimes we may be going through a time when the Lord may choose, in his gentle wisdom, to not speak too loudly -- (unlike the "megaphone" times in our lives) -- perhaps because he wants us to seek him more deeply.

Whatever the reasons may be, there are plenty of wilderness times in our lives when we may feel as though the Lord is not very active or present in our lives. Small wonder then that we marvel when we do suddenly sense his presence, when we find ourselves saying "and then God showed up!" like it's a shock.

As I said, what's bothered me most about the phrase is that, lurking in the background, there's this element of surprise. As though God took a walk somewhere, wandered off, got lost, then happened to make it back. A little late, but hey, at least he bothered to show up. Maybe I'm being over-sensitive, but there's something that smacks a little bit here of the vision of the deist watchmaker God, who sets things in motion and then leaves us all to muddle on as best as we can. But he pops in from time to time, just to check on how things are going.

But lately I've been gaining more empathy for the statement, or at least seeing it in a new light. Maybe because I've been floundering a bit in the wilderness lately, and the times when...oh, okay, I'll say it...the times when God has showed up, clearly and obviously, have provided such deep and meaningful refreshment for my weary heart and soul.

Still, I don't want to forget the pervasiveness of God's presence. He is there, in the hard times as well as the beautiful, in the dry times as well as the garden blooming wild with fruit times. He is there. We may forget it. We may not always sense it. We may forget to walk in the truth of it. But he is there. He is the one who sustains us, every breath, every moment, every mercifully new morning. He is there.

So here's what I think: when we say "And then God showed up..." this is what we just might mean:

We mean to say, like Jacob, "God was here, in this place (this very ordinary, hard-ground, rock-littered place!) and I DID NOT KNOW IT!"

We mean to say, like the Israelites celebrating on the other side of the Red Sea, "there was no hope, there was no way out, there was no way through, and then the most amazing thing happened...God showed up! He rescued us from death!"

We mean to say, from the depths of our heart, "I was once far off, but now I have been brought near, and amazing grace, God is here!"

We mean to say, like Jack Lewis, "God walks everywhere incognito. And the real challenge for us is to come awake."

So maybe we mean to, this moment, this now, I have come awake. The Prince of Peace has bestowed the kiss of life. I have come alive to the presence of God (always here, always sustaining) in ways that have surprised and stunned me. That have made me realize anew that hallelujah, HE IS HERE.


Edna said...

Great post! I feel that way about "the power of prayer" phrase. It's not the power of prayer, it's the power of GOD. And I can relate to both sides of what you mean today.

Elouise82 said...

Do you mind if I send this post to a friend who is going through one of those rough patches where God feels absent? I think she would be immensely encouraged by it - as I was myself.

Beth said...

Thanks, Edna. And I hadn't thought about the power of prayer phrase, but you're right! :)

Beth said...

Elouise, please do! I'm glad you were encouraged by this post too.

Dana said...

"Awaken what's inside of me/ Tune my heart to all you are in me/ Even though you're here, God come./ And may the vision of you/ be the death of me/ And even though you've given everything, Jesus come." -- Shane and Shane, "Vision of You" on *Pages*

Beth said...

Oh, thank you for this, Dana! I've got to listen to that CD again (I've only heard it in snippets). I love the line "Tune my heart to all you are in me/Even though you're here/God come..."