God is everywhere, but I believe when it comes to God we are mostly blind. Mostly we are blind because we do not “look”. We simply do not “see” God in everydayness because we expect Him to be in something-larger-than-life, religious activity or in the beautiful. Can we also “see” Him in the mundane, the muck and the limitation of our lives? Yes we can.
This is from Mike Yaconelli out of “Dangerous wonder.”
I had expected to meet God in the lives of those who were “whole.” Instead, God was hiding in the lives of the “broken,” the mentally and physically challenged—especially in a girl I’ll call Deborah. Her twenty-five-year-old body is ravaged by cerebral palsy and is as cooperative as a limp rag doll. She had to be held by someone at all times. Unable to speak, unable to respond, I wondered (I am embarrassed to admit now) why Henri had included her in our daily Bible studies.
I found out very soon. Two days after we arrived, Deborah was to celebrate her first Communion. It was a festive occasion and we were invited. We arrived at one of the L’Arche homes that was filled with sixty mentally and physically challenged members of the community, two dozen workers, and our study group. I had come with the expectation that this could be a great experience in the presence of God. Deborah was in a fully restrained wheelchair, her face radiant, her hair beautifully done, her dress stunning. The room was crowded and noisy and, as the Eucharist began, my heart sunk in disappointment.
The noise was chaotic and distracting. Those with Down’s syndrome were humming loudly, continually, rocking back and forth to a rhythm only they could hear. One girl would suddenly let loose with an ear-piercing shriek every few seconds, and the service had to be stopped temporarily because one member of the community had an epileptic seizure. I was completely distracted, disappointed at the chaos and confusion that had ruined my experience with God. As Father Nouwen presented the body and blood of Christ to each person in the room, I was secretly pouting, secretly counting the minutes until I could leave.
When Father Nouwen stopped in front of Deborah, her body stopped jerking and moving out of control, her eyes glistened, she opened her mouth to receive the wine and the bread, and there, ever so slightly, I saw her smile! At once the noise in the room was transformed into what I imagined the noise at the nativity would have been like. God was there! His fragrance filled the room. Deborah—the girl who could do nothing, the girl who would never give a talk, the girl who would never dance, the girl who would never write a book or play the piano or sing a song—taught me about the grace of God! For fifty years I had struggled with God’s unconditional love for me; for fifty years I had tried to prove my worthiness to God by busyness; and helpless Deborah might as well have grabbed me by the shoulders and shouted in my face, “God loves you just as you are! Surrender to His love!” I realized God was hiding in Deborah, and I haven’t been the same since.
The thing about this story is that Mike expected God to reveal Himself through Henri Nouwen. But God did not and Mike nearly missed it. I miss God regurlarly simply because, in the busy-ness, in the noise, I forget to look around. Activity(noise) is sometimes seen as the enemy of God, but even in the hustle and bustle He is to be found. When we lose our temper, is God with us? When everything is happening all at once, is God with us? When life is to much, is God with us? What do we “see”?
Deborah, the lady in Mike’s story did not have the ability to show God love with her hands. She could not go to someone, talk with them, show them sympathy, cry with them. Yet God could be seen in her life when somebody “looked.” The same with us. Sometimes life beat the crap out of us and we are broken and hurt and we are unable to help those around us that need help. We need people in our lives that can “see” God in us. We need people to see the beauty of God in the broken vessel. When we look, what do we “see”?
A few years back, Anette and I asked God to show us people through His eyes. It was terrible. I cried a lot because all I could see in the person was the beauty and all they could see in themselves was the ugly. We saw warriors in people with no self-esteem. Beggers in rich people. Frightened children in angry men. What do we “see” when we look?
What will God show us once we’ve “seen” Him? I have no idea, but what I do know is that we will never be the same 🙂