This morning I was thinking about a small group from camp this weekend. How a student was saying that he just wants to know that God is really there. Another student said something to the effect of wanting or needing a sign from God.
And I started thinking about when I was around their age, wrestling with the same stuff they are wrestling with now. I wanted a sign.
But the problem with signs – whether it’s a star you saw in the sky or praying to have a glass of water knock down before you – is that it produces a very shallow faith. As soon as I tell someone I believe in God because I prayed then I saw a shooting star – people are going to question it to pieces.
Even if it was authentic, even if I was totally convinced I heard from God – other people’s doubts will become my doubts. You can see this over and over and over again in Biblical accounts. “Faith by magic” is a very temporal thing. You get addicted to the big boom. The big magic faith event needs more magic events to sustain it. And soon God is not our sustaining force and we need more and more magic and faith has been replaced with something other than faith. Other than obedience and trusting in a God that has our best interests in mind, it turns to something altogether completely different. It turns to something more like watching tv than an active experience we live out.
Instead, the way I have generally heard from God or seen him move is in much smaller ways. Not the big bang of the heavens opening and a dove descending. But a quiet but relentless feeling about something. Something that could just be a hunch or a feeling or a guess, and easily dismissed as unimportant in the moment.
But now at the ripe old age of 28, I look back at literally thousands if not tens of thousands of small moves like that and I see that every single one of them is pointing in one direction.
It’s easy to dismiss any one of them as just a coincidence, but how do you dismiss 1,000 of them?
It’s like any other relationship in my life. When I was little I “tested” my dad to do a miracle by doing things like jumping off the counters and having him catch me. But I know my dad loves me and I can trust him because of 1,000 smaller things. Each one of them can be dismissed individually as a fluke, or a coincidence, or any other explanation you can give. But when you have 1,000 examples of faithfulness, you can’t dismiss the picture that is being painted: I am loved. And I can trust my Father who is behind each example of small faithfulness.
Because when you get to that point, you realize all of those small examples of faithfulness add up to something so much larger. I realize that I have been able to trust God with ten thousand small areas and decisions in my life – maybe I can start to trust him in three or four really big areas, too.
It’s so hard when you’re 15. Because you don’t have as much history you can remember and look back on and see how God worked things out. You can remember maybe two things from before you were five. Maybe a few more things from 5-10. And a whole bunch of bad stuff from middle school and early high school. Most of your decisions were made for you. So how do you develop faith without a history of 1,000 small acts of faithfulness?
The way you do anything else. You start with 1. God, grant me wisdom, strength and guidance for this, whatever the this is, no matter how small.
And then again. And again. And again. And sometimes you’ll follow what you hear, sometimes you won’t hear anything, and sometimes you’ll go, “Thanks, but I’ll do it my way, God.”
But if you keep going, eventually you will start to “hear” what God wants for you – even if all it is is a feeling you feel like came from within – even if all you do is hear them and do nothing. Some years down the road you’ll look back and begin to see all those moments stack up and point you somewhere.
And then you’ll have a stronger faith. Will it be perfect? No. But the struggle will move from, “Is there really a God?” to questions like, “Can I trust Him with this area of my life?” and “Do I even want what God wants?”
It’s been a long time since I’ve pondered the existence of God. It’s not because I’ve never wondered, I spent years wrestling with that idea starting around when I was 12 or 13. But I don’t seriously grapple with God’s existence any more because I look back over my life and I can see his signature on my life over and over and over again. At this point questioning whether God exists or not is a similar question as asking if my parents do. My life is my proof for the existence of God. That will satisfy absolutely no one but my own questions of faith, and that’s Ok.
Because “He wants servants who can finally become sons.” His goal is not automatons, robots or slaves.
He wants you. He wants to be your Father. And He wants you to be His son or daughter.
He is endlessly patient but relentlessly pursuing.