On a scale of 1 to 10 Dr. James Dobson’s name recognition is easily over 5 and probably somewhere around 8. Not everyone embraces his vision of the Christian family or a Christian society with enthusiasm, but most people know who he is. Imagine my surprise several years ago while visiting my parents’ church in Sarasota, Florida when my Dad called on Dr. James Dobson to conclude the morning worship service with prayer.
James Dobson? Are you serious? Everyone was immediately looking around with stunned delight, trying to get a visual on this person to see if it really was the James Dobson. A celebrity was at church. And the excitement seemed to be heightened by the fact that he just showed up. He wasn’t invited. His presence wasn’t announced in advance or published in the church newsletter. He didn’t expect to speak or be given platform time. He was just there on one of the back pews, attending church on Sunday morning as if he were, well . . . normal.
God’s presence among us is often spoken of in such a way that the presence feels to us like a fog. It is misty and ethereal and it spreads all over the place and covers everything. But God’s blanketing presence is balanced by a manifest presence – a concrete instance of God’s appearing. We might say that in spite of our attentive seeking, sometimes God shows up in our day and catches us when we aren’t looking.
God’s presence in the everyday isn’t an abstraction. God shows up in the details of the day. The presence of the Holy is connected with crisp verbs and nouns, conversations with a named person, a phone call that evoked a strong emotion of relief or fear, a touch from someone that gave comfort at just the right moment.
That God shows up this way is clear from the ministry of Jesus. To read the gospels is to follow Jesus from here to there as he shows up and reveals God. Jesus did not simply set up shop in Nazareth and wait to be sought out. He did not extend his healing hand only to those who were fortunate enough to make their way to where he was. He did not take the same seat day after day and teach only those who had made pilgrimage to hear him. No, Jesus walked and went.
Jesus reveals to us a God who seeks us out, a God who has taken the first step toward us. In fact, Jesus’ very life as God incarnate was God’s coming to us, moving toward us. There is no place we can be, no experience we can live through that is beyond this seeking, moving God. God finds us in quiet sanctuaries and frenetic offices. He finds us in our seasons of great joy when all is well, and he comes to us in our darkest sufferings. Nothing is off-limits.
Get ready. Finding God in the everyday doesn’t simply mean that God is out there somewhere. It means that in whatever you face today, God may well show up in a way that you don’t expect. Our God loves verbs and nouns. How will God show up in your life today?
Gracious God, I invite you to show up today in ways that I might not expect. Remind me that the voices I hear might be speaking your word to me; that what I feel might be your promptings within me; that what I see happening might be a window to something you are doing. Help today with nouns and verbs, in Jesus’ name. Amen.