Friday, February 22, 2008

Expecting to be Surprised

It's funny, I didn't know Matt had written the previous post about faith issues, yet I felt compelled to write something along those lines today, too! I was prompted to think about some things today after reading a devotional that our friend (and one of Matt's classmates) posted on her blog, I want to share it here (I got her permission first, of course!) because it both comforted me and affirmed some of my current thoughts on God.

I never used to think that my faith could be changed by circumstances. God is always the same, regardless of what happens to little old me, right? But then again, I had it pretty good. Now, after losing what was most precious to me, I often ask myself those hard questions: Does God exist? Probably he does, but if he does why didn't he care enough about my family? Or maybe he cares, but isn't as powerful as I thought. These are thoughts I never imagined having (in truth I had never been forced to have them before), but I think just about anyone who encounters sorrow will have to ask these things, whether it be seldom or often. The fact is that right now God is not apparent to me--I don't see him, and I don't feel him. But that doesn't mean he's not there. And I don't expect him to be hidden from me forever. I anticipate that God will reveal himself to me in surprising ways. Just read what Ingrid had to say, if you have a minute, because she puts what I mean into better words than I can:

Chasing Denali

“The Mountain is Not Out.” So say Alaskans of Mt. McKinley (Denali is the native name) when the snow-covered titan lies hidden in the clouds of its own personal weather system, to which it has every right considering its status as the tallest thing on the continent. Such was the case when I was in Denali National Park this September during a visit to my dear friend Katherine. We drove 150 miles to the park through a heavily overcast morning. The tundra slopes lining the highway were rich in fall colors, and I was enjoying the immediate terrain too much to mind the low visibility ahead. Once we were in the park, the clouds started to lift, and by the time we had summited Mt. Healy, a nice little 3,400-footer, we could see mountain ranges all around us, but still no Denali. I became considerably exasperated with the elusive giant for refusing to reveal itself even as the sky cleared everywhere else.

Word has it that Denali is visible only one in four days, and even locals get really excited when the Mountain deigns to permit onlookers. The Mountain will not be taken for granted. This is for me a great deal like faith. Most of my experience of God comes from stories, reflections, and echoes. Only on rare occasions do I meet God in any way more solid than a subliminal nudge. I think that’s a large part of why we create idols. We want something that is tangible, predictable, and safe. God is not subject to our whims, and seldom appears how and when we expect.

This excursion to Denali was only for the day. We were spending the night at a cabin in Talkeetna, a little backwoods town that serves as an outpost for wilderness recreation. We peered between trees and into the sunset the entire drive home, straining for a glimpse. Even from designated viewpoints along the highway there was no sign of the Mountain. One starts to question, if not its existence, at least its magnitude. (What presumptuous creatures we humans are.)

At dusk as we arrived in Talkeetna, the veil dissolved, and there it was in the fading light, towering even from 100 miles away. Wow. The following morning was perfectly clear and we stared awestruck at the Mountain for awhile on our way out of town. It was plainly visible all the way back to Anchorage. Wow again. Breathtaking.

God hears us, calls us, seeks us. And we are to seek him, not merely in order to confirm his existence or to check it off the list of things to do, but because the rumor of his glory compels us through the journey that is life.

God’s unseen presence does not become more or less real with the changes in our lives. We can put distance between ourselves and God, have our senses cluttered with mundane details that obscure His majesty, or get our perspective distorted by mindset and circumstance. Yet He is there. He reveals Himself according to his perfect timing. We can no more discover God at will than roll back the clouds.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. . . . Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? . . . Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.” – Job 38:4,12-13,18

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” – Hebrews 11:1-2

Author of the Universe, Help us to trust and find comfort in your greatness. Heal our fear and confusion, and teach us peace. Give us the strength to be still and know that you are God when our questions have no answers we can understand. Help us open our hearts to wonder and joy. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. And thanks to Ingrid too.

happychipmunk said...

Hi M and N -

I read Ingrid's post only minutes before checking your blog. Just wanted to say hi. It was so good to see you both at Midwinter. Any news about the call process? Well nothing profound to say - just, "Hey, haven't forgotten about you two." Liked the post about borrowed faith - I feel like a faith-borrower, too. Maybe we can share the scraps that we both have and it'll add up to more than we think. later, johnna