Seeing God Wherever You Go
As the dust settled around Job, a tragedy confronted him. And when he needed God most, Job wondered why God seemed so elusive. Yet Job didn’t question whether God existed. He only wondered why he couldn’t find him. “Somehow, though he moves right in front of me, I don’t see him; quietly but surely he’s active, and I miss it.” (Job 9:11, The Message) For Job, God was hidden, yet he was still there.
Is God Hiding?
Tragedy and suffering aren’t the only veils that seem to hide God. Busyness is another veil, one that we pull over our own eyes. Eugene Peterson writes, “Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s actions. It is taking charge.”
Today, with so many digital distractions, Peterson’s words seem more relevant than ever. While my phone can help me connect with and love other people, it can also keep my attention locked into the horizontal plane with very little bandwidth for looking up. Smartphones might help me love other people, but when it comes to loving God, the Internet won’t help much. If God seems hidden from me, busyness may be the culprit. I may need to ignore my phone to have eyes to see.
From Images to Imagination
Not just the occasional upward glance either. “Having eyes to see” takes regular practice. And it requires imagination. As Peterson explains in this video, “Most of the things that are true, you can’t see—the whole invisible world of grace, love, justice.” Elsewhere, he writes, “We underestimate God and we overestimate evil. We don’t see what God is doing and conclude that he is doing nothing. We see everything that evil is doing and think it is in control of everyone.”
Using my imagination is part of growing in faith. It empowers me to see that “world of grace, love, justice,” to notice their subtle movements, and even to believe in them. Imagination empowers me to begin to “see what God is doing” and to not simply be barraged by 24-hour news—the horizontal plane.
If Job had let every push notification interrupt his imagination, he too might have begun to believe God wasn’t there at all. If I spend all day glued to my phone, whether I’m reading news, checking Facebook and Instagram, or texting with friends and family, those smartphone-sized images supply my imagination with pictures. None of which show me God. When all I see is arrogance and heartbreak, it starts seeming reasonable to think, Is he there at all?
If I don’t make time to listen for God, everything I see will decide what’s reasonable. But when I fuel my faith with imagination, I begin growing eyes to see. I start to believe God “moves right in front of me . . . quietly but surely.”
God Shows Up
An amazing thing begins to happen: Not only does God begin to show himself, but he begins to show up in the distractions themselves. They become signposts alerting me to pay attention. With spiritual eyes, I begin to behold God’s presence. Peterson again:
The Christian life is not a straight run on a track laid out by a vision statement formulated by a committee. Life meanders much of the time. Unspiritual interruptions, unanticipated people, uncongenial events cannot be pushed aside in our determination to reach the goal unimpeded, undistracted. ‘Goal-setting,’ in the context and on the terms intended by a leadership-obsessed and management-programmed business mentality that infiltrates the church far too frequently, is bad spirituality. Too much gets left out. Too many people get brushed aside.
(Practice Resurrection, 133)
Maturity cannot be hurried, programmed, or tinkered with. There are no steroids available for growing up in Christ more quickly. Impatient shortcuts land us in the dead ends of immaturity.
When I dictate my life, when I fill every boring stoplight with a flick of the screen, when I fail to create intentional space to listen for God, is it any wonder I don’t see God in the world around me? Where else am I going to find him?
You Won’t Be Disappointed
The distractions become signposts when I give each moment to God. Here, it’s not necessarily what I’m looking at that changes, but how I am looking. Smartphones display the surface of things, but God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus invites us to look beneath the surface, so we can judge rightly (John 7:24). To visualize God’s works of grace, love, and justice—that requires imagination. With that kind of vision, we will be like Job—convinced that God is there, no matter what’s happening around us.
God promises, “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” (Jeremiah 29:13, The Message)
Jesus, I want eyes to see what you’re doing. I know I let my distractions keep me from paying attention to your presence and movement. Help me to notice each day’s experiences. And give me eyes to see the surprising ways you are already at work in those experiences—and in me. Amen.