"Hello, God ..."
When someone asks how are you doing, are you tempted to reply: Busy!
I know that’s often the case with me. I recently ran across these words by religious thinker Henri Nouwen, and they rang uncomfortably true: “One of the most obvious characteristics of our daily lives is that we are busy. We experience our days as filled with things to do, people to meet, projects to finish, letters to write, calls to make, and appointments to keep. Our lives often seem like overpacked suitcases bursting at the seams.”(1)
Is it just me, or is that an uncanny description of our daily lives, circa 2014? And here’s the thing: Nouwen wrote those words in the pre-Internet world of 1981. If anything, his words are even truer now, with our 45-minute commutes, 140-character tweets and 24-hour news cycle. I look at the oatmeal box – “cooks in five minutes” – and I think: Need something faster!
How do we find the peace of Christ in all this busy-ness? Can God really break through all this?
I’ve come to believe we don’t have to try to “find” God. God finds us. That’s actually kind of a relief. When I’ve felt the peace of Christ, it isn’t necessarily because I’ve been searching. Instead, I open my eyes and find God is already there.
Last fall I had the privilege of participating in an IMPACT Bible Study group uptown with a group of Covenant members and friends, as we delved into Genesis together. One reading that stuck with me is the story of Jacob’s Ladder in Genesis 28. Jacob, fleeing from his brother’s rage, stops to rest for the night and has a peculiar dream of angels going up and down a stairway. When he wakes up, he exclaims: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
Those words have become an affirmation for me, a source of peace for busy times. If Jacob, in the chaos following his act of trickery against his brother, can awaken in a desolate place and come to understand that God was there all along – then surely we can sense the presence of God in our busy days.
I recall with a smile how a dear Covenant member used to open committee meetings with a prayer that began: “Hello, God.” What if we made that our morning prayer this busy Lenten season? What if we whisper those two words when we open our eyes, and let God take it from there? If we do, we might just find, as Jacob did, that God was there all along. Maybe the things that are keeping us busy are there because God has blessed us.
Those ancient words of Jacob remind us that God is with us, right now, this day, here in this place. Even if we did not know it.
Hello, God …
1. Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life,” p. 23. ©1981 by Henri J.M. Nouwen.
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