Saturday, September 24, 2011
Looking for Jesus
A man was working on sand-blasting hard-water scale off of some nuts when he saw a vision. On one particular nut, the image of Jesus Christ was made manifest almost immediately after applying the jet of sand. Elated and awestruck, he stopped his work and immediately started sharing the miraculous apparition with everyone.
That's the actual nut in the photo! Do you see Jesus? Yeah, neither do I. I can kind of make out a face, maybe even a little like Tom Selleck, but if that is the best the Creator of the universe and master of all matter can do to show His face, I'm not impressed.
If God did go around putting the image of Jesus, or the Virgin Mary, on nuts, or toast, or fountain water-stains, it would be weird, and more than a little creepy. You'd have to examine your bumper after every drive for bug guts in the shape of a crucifix for a sign from God.
Millions of Christians claim to hear from God, but not in picture form. Thankfully, it appears that relatively few Christians claim to hear God speaking literally. Instead, in our time, the normal way to "hear" from God seems to be to discern it from emotions they feel or events which occur. Discernment can be a real problem.
God, in most common reference, provides these messages invisibly. If there was some invisible phenomenon which moved air from one place to another, and rustled grass and leaves, but was not wind, how could you discern it from wind itself? Is it just when the air moves in a favorable direction?
If you believe that God controls everything, then anything could be interpreted as a message from God. Even the weather, which affects everyone regardless of faith, you can see as a personal sign from God. My older sister appears to have this perspective, as she has said (paraphrased) things such as "God did not want me to take my children to the park today because it rained."
As a teenager, I had the idea which seems most popular, that God lets most events play out however they will (because He knows the will ultimately end the way He wants), but occasionally does step in to tweak the events or send messages. I had believed that Jesus/God would step in and provide healings. I had believed that God would answer prayers. I had believed that God would place things on our hearts and in our minds. I didn't know exactly how it happened, but I wanted to know.
You see, as a teenager, I was a budding skeptic. I was not at all skeptical about Christianity at that time, as a whole. (The time I am focusing on here, specifically, is during my pious revival mentioned in my last post.) Yet while the months went by, waiting to hear from God, I thought seriously to myself: "When I hear from God, how will I know it is really a message from Him?" This got the gears of my skeptical brain working.
Even at that age, I had come to realize that self-deception was pretty easy. I had the sense that if I forced myself to look for Jesus in everything, I was sure to find what I thought was Him, but not necessarily the real thing, such as the bolt up above or this recent tale about a guy who thought God had saved him during a trench collapse.
Besides self-deception, I also thought Satan may be out there, lurking around, ready to misdirect me too. This would have been a perfect opportunity for him, too, given that I was so inexperienced in the faith. He could have lead me down a path I thought was right because it felt right, but turned out to be all wrong. I had to be on guard.
That sobering thought reminded me, too, that a message from God may not be telling me to do something that I wanted to do. In fact, it could be quite the opposite, because it was to be His will, not my own.
With all of these possible snags waiting to catch me, waiting to lead me astray, I got nervous for a while. I was afraid I might miss the message God gave to me because I was being too guarded, too cautious to make sure it was a real message. However, this nervousness soon passed. I knew that God knew my thoughts and my heart, and I knew that God was God. God could figure out a way to make the message incontrovertibly clear. At least, that's what I thought.
So I waited. Listening. Watching. Patiently.
Several months went by. No contact. No message. So, slowly, my teenage mind got distracted by other things as my passion for God burnt down to a few glowing embers. Even with those few, meager embers, I kept the heat of hope alight thinking that God would call me when He needed me.