Someone recently commented on a theme in my conversations with them, something along the lines of “You always talk about how God is just as much in the mundane and every day as He is present in big moments or extremes of life.” I think at the core, if we believe in a present God, we would agree with this idea. Of course God doesn’t only appear in desperate or euphoric times. We comment on the consistent presence and availability of a relational God. But if God is always with us, if we profess a “here and now”, “God with us,” Emmanuel, then why do we spend so much time trying and a give so much language to getting away from the mess, or getting out of here.
Let me explain. Listening to a sermon the other day, the priest referenced how often the parables reflect a God that desires to be with us, to come down to be a part of humanity. In that moment, all the recent comments from my own mouth and the posts, tweets, and mouths of others like…
I can’t wait til all this passes.
I can’t be around so and so, or read what so and so says anymore.
I’m done with ____________ and ___________ and _________.
And my personal comment, and personal favorite…I think it’s time to buy a ranch in Montana.
I believe there is value in hitting a pause button relationally. I think it can be wisdom to take a break from social media, or from all media for that matter. But I’m realizing how often this theme of “just get me out of here” emerges in my life, and how contrary that is in comparison to Emmanuel. If the good news is that Christ came to be with us, why do we insist on getting out? We pray “Thy Kingdom come, They will be done on earth….” and then project a desire to skip ahead to the heaven part.
Thomas Keating comments, “God clearly has a desire to get down into the nitty gritty with us.” when referencing the illustrations Jesus uses to teach about the Kingdom.
I understand why we want out, why we want to shut down, stop the noise, silence the chaos. I believe in healthy boundaries, in “garbage in-garbage out”, but I wonder what the balance is between a person that wants to escape and a God that wants to engage.
God’s kingdom is there, AND here. His reign is then, AND now.
The gospel writer references Isaiah with, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means, God with us.”
Remember the movie The Never Ending Story? (Super cheesy moment here.) Remember in the final scenes, after The Nothing has laid waste to the land? (I can’t believe I’m using this, hang in there.) There is this moment where Atreyu, is remarking on the pointlessness of his efforts, and the Empress suggests otherwise. She suggests that the one that can set all things right has been present all along. (Please go and watch this clip, I’m literally tearing up. Partly from the emotion and partly from laughter, this is so cheesy.)
When Atreyu hears this he is frustrated, “My horse died (seriously sad scene), I nearly drowned, and I just barely got away from the nothing. For what?!”
Then she says, referencing the journey/story of the main character, Bastian:
“He has suffered with you. He went through everything you went through. And now, he has come here with you. He’s very close. Listening to every word that we say…Just as he is sharing all your adventures, other’s are sharing his. They were with him when he hid from the boys in the bookstore…They were with him when he took the book with the Auryn symbol on the cover (snake necklace thingy), in which he’s reading his own story right now…He doesn’t understand that he’s the one who has the power to stop it. He simply can’t imagine that one little boy could be that important.”
Without ruining such a fine film for anyone that hasn’t seen it (most likely those born after 1990.) the characters cannot understand how two worlds, two stories, two times can be so woven together. But I keep thinking of “they were with him when he hid from the boys in the bookstore,” as he hid, as he ventured through the not- fun parts of his adventure. This idea, that “one little boy could be that important” was such good news, but that good news did not eliminate the mess, the nitty gritty of the story, the challenge of being a God with us.
I’ve been reflecting on what all I’ve been trying to get out of, what I’ve been squirming to avoid. Are there areas I’m insistent on leaving behind, that maybe are actually where I need to press in? Are there pockets in my life where I am acting as if God is not present and available, not here with me? Sometimes we do need to turn-off, mute, or remove things from our current season of life, but perhaps we would benefit from sorting and sifting through what those things, or people, should or should not be, with the God that is very much among the every day, mundane, boring, and messed up world we live in.