This may sound trivial or “duh” to you, but one of the things that I’ve been re-learning lately, much in part to the book A Praying Life by Paul Miller, is that God really is there on the other end of the line. He is active, engaged, listening…and this is the often forgotten part: responding. It reminds me of what C.S. Lewis says in Miracles:
“An ‘impersonal God’–well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads–better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap–best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband–that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall?…Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?”
Don’t you just love that image? Pulling at the other end…approaching at an infinite speed.
It seems very like God to remind us of this. Especially when we get lost in our rituals and habits, and you lose sight of the fact that there’s a real person on the other end of this relationship, and then He somehow taps on your shoulder or busts open your little bubble and you get that same jolt that you get during scary movies.
Maybe I’m just weird, but I hope some of you know what I’m talking about.
It is a crazy wonderful thing that God pursues. That He taps and whistles and pokes and yells, through a thousand different things to get our attention. Because we drift, forget, become numb and sleepy.
But the difficult thing about God being a real person happens to be the fact that, well, He’s a real person. Not a construct or a fetch-boy, but a real, wise and self-sufficient being. He can’t be pigeon-holed or bossed around. He can say “No” and not do things exactly like we want Him to. Just like other people.
If He was a robot, you could make Him yank the other end of the rope when you wanted Him to. (But you’ll be glad to hear that He’s not a robot.)
If you don’t believe me, do an experiment. Go up to a random stranger and instruct them to take off your smelly shoes and give you a ten-minute foot massage. See if they comply.
You’re back already? That didn’t take long…
So…that fact makes me really wary when I hear people talk about testing God. Specifically when people get really stressed, frustrated, or confused and they’re like “Okay, GOD–if you’re really out there then I need you to do _______ to prove to me that you’re really there.” It’s essentially drawing a box, giving God a time-frame, and then standing there to watch the box.
And I suppose that sometimes God goes along with it. I’ve heard stories.
But I’ve also heard stories of bitter and cynical people who believe God bailed on them because He didn’t show up in their box in their timeframe. Like a story I heard recently about a guy who was laid off from a ministry, and after praying and searching for a job for several years, he didn’t find one that he wanted. So he bailed on God and doesn’t want to talk about Him at all now, with anyone.
And that makes me cringe. Because if I’ve learned anything about God, it’s that He generally doesn’t fit into boxes.
So, please remember that the next time you are standing there, staring back and forth between your watch and a box in the sand, growing more bitter and jaded by the minute.
You just never know.
He may be doing jumping jacks behind you.