During our service the Sunday before last, some of us spent time reflecting on how God is present in all the details of life. We experience incredible ‘highs’ in our lives where we can’t contain our enthusiasm, just to wake up the next day and hit rock-bottom, reeling from some of what life in this broken world can do to us. We celebrate events that make life worth living, but we also mourn pain and loss that can tend to rock our foundations.
All of these highs-and-lows and the nuance in-between can really tempt us to believe in a secular-sacred divide. There are times, because of our hectic lives or the demands that we carry, when we mentally build a separation between what happens in religious services on Sunday mornings or the closeness that we feel with God in our ‘quiet times’ and mundane occasions like watching a movie, chatting with our next door neighbors, or cleaning the toilets in our home because life has a way of marching mindlessly on.
Our experience, as human beings, is infused with some occurrences screaming of God’s presence while other occasions seem to be insignificant and empty of any real importance. They leave us wondering where God could be in those moments. Why do we make that separation in our minds? To a degree, it’s a part of the human condition – prioritizing the details of life and placing God in the periphery, but we can work against that temptation.
During the sermon the Sunday before last, I shared a way in which I saw the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in the 1989 sci-fi/adventure, The Abyss. In other blog-posts, I have explained how I notice God’s presence in Frankenstein, caterpillar exoskeleton heads, honeypot ants, Hobbits, and Bigfoot. The more time that I’ve spent very deliberately attempting to recognize God in the details of life, the more I have found that God’s finger-prints are on literally every aspect of His creation.
Spend time in nature? God is there in the beauty of His artistry.
Spend time teaching your children? God is there, reminding you of the joy He also finds in watching His children grow and explore.
Spend time visiting with friends on walks around the neighborhood? God is there in our deep desire to share in community – something He very deliberately built into us.
Spend time enjoying a hobby with your spouse that draws you closer together? God is there, teaching you how to love well, yes, but also how He loved the Church so much that He gave His life to redeem it.
Spend time volunteering in your neighborhood? God is there, teaching us how we depend on each other’s strengths and weaknesses to thrive.
Spend time rocking your grandchild to sleep? God is there, teaching you about the value of this child’s life, yes, but also the value of life in all mankind including yourself.
Spend time watching even the most secular of movies? God is there in our desire to tell meaningful stories or when we use our minds to create narratives, even if we misuse that ability to distract from Him and His glory.
What do you love spending time doing? Where does God meet you in that place? What is He telling you about Himself, His character, and the Good News He is sharing with you? What is He telling you about yourself and your need for a Savior – not just from eternal separation from Him (John 17:3), but also from the loss of the abundance of life (John 10:10) that He desires we experience on this earth?
It’s amazing how thoroughly His presence is inseparable from all of reality. King David knew as much when he reflected, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). Does this just apply to the location he might inhabit? Personally, I don’t believe so. Of course, it’s true that on his missionary journeys, Paul found that God “preceded” him to every destination, and Jonah could not escape God’s presence even in the depths of the seas. But we also know that God is with us even in our most desperate sinful states or as we take part in the most destructive of immoral habits. No wool was pulled over God’s eyes when David used his royal power to use Bathsheba for his perverse enjoyment or when he had her husband murdered, destroying his new bride’s previous marriage. Likewise, God knew exactly what was going through Judas Iscariot’s mind as he planned to make money off the murder of the Messiah.
That is our God – the One who is great, and powerful, and glorious, and victorious, and majestic – because “all that is in the heavens and in the earth is [His]” (1 Chronicles 29:11). In other words, there is nothing in existence that is not His. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). And if everything in creation is His, then it will all communicate His truth and power, whether we are listening or not.
However, isn’t it beautiful when we are listening? When our eyes are open and searching for all the intricate ways that God can be seen in our midst? Even amid exile, Jeremiah spoke into the darkness the words of God, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Even in our most desperate moments? Even in the midst of persecution or when the comfort of “home” is far from us? Without a doubt, no matter where we are or what circumstances are surrounding us, He is there.
The masterful writer and preacher, Frederick Buechner, whose death we mourned last week, wrote in his second memoir, Now and Then, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
Isn’t that a most beautiful truth? I hope that Buechner’s wisdom that shines through that quote blesses you as it has me. I pray that it will inspire you to seek God in the details of life and rest in the promise of His faithfulness as He nods to us in the world around us. For “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff