Thursday, October 20, 2005

Signs from God

I spent my free time this morning re-reading the comments to my last few posts along with that excellent How to Find God guide over at Chez Joel. This afternoon I went to run errands and decided to take the long way home to have some more time to think. As I drove around the scenic rolling hills of the beautiful outskirts of the city I pondered the question of signs. Where is my big sign from God?, I wondered. If he's so all-powerful and wants us to believe in him and can do whatever he wants, why doesn't he just give me one big sign and get this over with?

That brought me to a question that turned out to be a pivotal realization for me: What would I even accept as a sign from God? Here are some options I came up with, along with their likely effectiveness:

  • Lightning striking right in front of me right now. This would certainly be compelling. And for the next day or two I might be certain that it was the sign I was waiting for. But after a few weeks I could easily write it off as coincidence, just a freak act of nature.
  • A big sign on the side of the road saying, "Hi, Jennifer, it's me God. I exist!" Nah. I'd write it off as a prank, meant either for me or someone else.
  • The sky opening up and a chorus of angels appearing (or something else totally surreal). Ironically, I'd probably be most likely to write this off. I'd eventually rationalize it as a dream or hallucination.
Thirty minutes of intense thinking on this subject yielded few results. There was almost nothing I couldn't eventually rationalize or explain away. So in all this whining about wanting a sign from God, I never did take the time to ask myself what I would accept as a sign.

So I set out to define some parameters of what it would take for something to fall into the Sign From God category. And my thinking went something like this:

It'd have to be something big. BIIIIIG. Like not-of-this-earth big. Something like, I don't know, the cosmos. Something with seemingly infinite complexity, one of those things where the more you explore it the more you realize how much you don't know. Sort of like the physics behind the universe. And I feel like beauty would be involved as well. Probably beauty of a level that makes your jaw drop in wonder, like mine did that time I saw the NASA photo of the Orion molecular cloud that's a few light-years wide. And, finally, it would probably be best if it worked within some sort of system that I'm familiar with. Per the angels in the sky example above, if it were too surreal I think I'd write it off as hallucination.

Hmmm.

After pondering this for a while I started to think: maybe God overshot the mark. I could sort of see him thinking, "OK, I give you people quasars and galaxies and comets and shooting stars and supernovae and planets and stars all for your amusement (and you haven't even discovered a fraction of the cool stuff that's out there) and you use this as proof that I DON'T exist?"

Maybe I'm living in the midst of one big, massive sign that I just can't see.

3 Comments:

At October 21, 2005 10:16 AM, Anonymous SteveG said...

Where is my big sign from God?, I wondered. If he's so all-powerful and wants us to believe in him and can do whatever he wants, why doesn't he just give me one big sign and get this over with?

I think the problem with this very natural tendency of our thinking is that when we approach God this way, what we are REALLY saying is something profoundly the inverse of what we need to be saying. There is a sense in which demanding a big sign is requiring God to bow down before us, instead of us bowing down before him. This IS of course human nature. I might go so far as to say it’s rooted in the very fall itself. That first break with God where humanity said, ‘I will not serve! I will be like God!’

I remember distinctly when I got over this way of thinking in my own life. It was a day when I was so down that I was almost to the point of giving up. I was reading JPII’s ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’. I had already been on the journey of which you are speaking for a couple years. I had read so much, learned so much, heard so much, and yet understood so little. The book I was reading was wonderful, and I could see with my intellect the profound wisdom and holiness of this man John Paul II. Yet something was still missing.

Nothing I had read, including this amazing book, was reaching my heart and piercing the darkness. Finally, in near despair, where I was almost at the point of saying, ‘I just can’t do this’, I put the book down. I just lay where I was on the couch for a bit not knowing what to do next, almost paralyzed with despair.

Finally, in the midst of the recognition of my utter weakness and inability to ‘solve’ this problem, a small spark was struck. It dawned on me that all my reading, all my study, all my talking, all my thinking had been fundamentally self centered. It was I who was trying to find God, instead of letting myself be found (like the lost sheep). I was demanding God give me a sign, demanding that he make himself comprehensible to me, and demanding that he humble Himself to serve me (without intending to). IT WAS ALL BACKWARDS! Another 'wham' moment in my life!

Now, the next step! He has already done this hasn’t He? Isn’t that what the whole crucifixion deal was about? Didn’t I hear somewhere something like...

He humbled himself and took on our humanity, so that we might share in his divinity?

...Hadn’t Paul said of Jesus (Phillipians 2)…

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

...And what was I doing? I was doing the opposite. I was ‘grasping’ at God, wanting him to be my equal, no, not my equal, but my servant. I was demanding that he show me a sign and reveal Himself to me. But wasn’t the very crucifixion and resurrection sign enough?

Apparently Jesus was right (surprise, surprise) in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man when he said (Luke 16)...

And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"

...I was cut to the quick! That was me. I was the man on the other side of the abyss! FINALLY, I DID in fact give up. Which is what we ultimately need to do. I literally fell on my knees in tears. I admitted to myself and to God...

I can’t do this. If I am to be Yours, YOU must do this for me. I am too weak. If you want me, I will be yours, but I will stop trying to make you mine.

...It’s the only way. If even Jesus humbled himself, then we too must follow that example and humble ourselves. It seems to me that the only way past this is to fall on our faces in humility and meet God on His terms rather than ours if we are to make a real start.

After pondering this for a while I started to think: maybe God overshot the mark. I could sort of see him thinking, "OK, I give you people quasars and galaxies and comets and shooting stars and supernovae and planets and stars all for your amusement (and you haven't even discovered a fraction of the cool stuff that's out there) and you use this as proof that I DON'T exist?"

Maybe I'm living in the midst of one big, massive sign that I just can't see.


All true, and true for all of us at that. And in addition, we are all in the midst of a million small signs that might be missed as well. The sign which is a supportive husband who isn’t standing in your way (maybe even supporting you) while you search. The sign of your very child who came into the world and brought new life into your heart only through the pain of childbirth (which is an image of the crucifixion and resurrection itself-new life through suffering). The sign of that same child who’s hugs, kisses, and smiles can dispel nearly any pain or sadness, if just for a short time. The sign of a myriad of people taking the time to come here and comment and encourage who are praying for you every day. There are a million little signs, if we would but see them, which would add up to something far larger than the largest supernova.

I promise you, when you’ve made it passed this hurdle, one day you will look back on this entire period and wonder how you missed all the signs that were around you even in the midst of dirty diapers, dirty dishes and dirty laundry. Once you’ve crossed this last abyss, you will cast your mind back in retrospect, and see EVERYTHING that was happening as a sign.

Jennifer, God bless you. Keep fighting, keep loving, and keep hoping.

 
At October 26, 2005 5:06 PM, Anonymous Rebecca said...

if God gave you some huge massive sign, he would, presumably, force you into believing him. If he literally appeared in front of you in all of his majesty and glory and amazingness (if that's a word)
But God gives us free will, so he is never going to give you that huge sign, instead he waits for you to go looking for him, and reveals himself in subtler ways.
But believe me, you're not the first person to go through this.
email me rebeccgrrr@yahoo.co.uk

 
At August 31, 2009 8:51 PM, Blogger V said...

this post makes me giggle.

your son is a sign, for starters.

also, the Case for Christ book sounds like a sign to me!

 

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