I’m sure you’ve probably heard this joke, but I find it rather revealing. It goes something like this:
A man finds himself in rising waters up to his waist with no way out. Suddenly a boat approaches and a lifeline is thrown to him. The people on board yell out “Grab the lifeline, we’ll save you!” The man at risk responds “It’s okay; I’m trusting God!” The boat retreats. As the waters rise just above neck line, the victim feeling desperate hears a helicopter approaching and soon another lifeline is offered to him from above. The people in the helicopter yell out “Grab the lifeline, we’ll save you!” He responds, “It’s okay; I’m trusting God!” The helicopter withdraws, the waters rise and the flood waters overcome him. Immediately upon death, the man is caught up to heaven and storms into the throne room of God saying, “What happened, God!? I was trusting you to save me!” God responds, “I sent a boat and a helicopter.”
Cute. But does this say something about how God communicates to us in everyday life? More often than not I find that it’s in and through the small things that God speaks the loudest. Maybe life is not merely a set of isolated circumstances and unconnected situations randomly aligned by some invisible, unknowable hand. Scripture tells us that not a sparrow falls nor a hair remains unnumbered without our heavenly Father knowing (and caring) about the details (Matter 10:29). It’s easy to forget this brute theological fact. I don’t know about you, but I need to work hard at finding God’s hand in every situation and through every relationship that I have with others. Many times I do not perceive God, because I expect God’s activity to look a certain way. I have eyes, but I don’t often see. Why? What is it that prevents me from experiencing this kind of spiritual insight?
One of the answers comes from Jesus’s use of parables. At one point his disciples were a wee bit frustrated by these cryptic stories and asked Jesus, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” The short answer Jesus gave was something like “because some can see, hear, and understand, while others cannot because of their heart condition” (see Matthew 13:10-15). As Isaiah 6:9-10; Romans 1:18-32 show, failing to acknowledge God or give him his rightful place in our lives creates a heart condition that may end up being unable to perceive God’s activity. It’s not so much that God is not speaking, but some willingly contribute to their own blindness by ignoring God’s call. Just as the drowning man expected God would rescue him on his terms, so too living life on our terms rather than God’s dims our spiritual eyesight. And so, the prerequisite to improving our eyesight and gaining spiritual insight is a deep and radical devotion to our God.