When God Disappears
Lately I have been watching our three kids during the day while my wife finishes up nursing school. Our youngest, Lily, is two. Because mommy isn’t around, I become the rock that she clings to like a human barnacle. It has been an “interesting” time, meaning that it has been a mix of both exhaustion and joy.
Lily has a few choice phrases. It was months of hearing these until they started to teach me about some of the things we believe about God.
1) “I hun-gee!”
Translation: “I am hungry.”
Now, without the needed details this sounds like a more-than-legitimate plea, doesn’t it? But when more of the background details have been communicated the situation is seen a little differently.
This cry is sounded off like a tsunami warning alarm in Hawaii. The main differences between the two not being the volume by which it is communicated but the fact that my children’s plea takes place inches from my ear and literally a hundred times a day rather from a rooftop and once every decade.
Also important is the fact that Lily is sounding this alarmliterally moments after she ate, coincidentally leaving large portions of food leftover on her plate. Now, I just spent up to an hour concocting this meal that was so quickly tossed aside, the exact meal that she asked me to make her, and she is now asking me for something else...just because. Irritation aside, straight-up waste is not ok. So naturally, I remind her that she has food in front of her, and that if she was in fact “hun-gee”, she would eat what I gave her...and what she asked for. Surely the meal I just created is better than the stuff she wants to eat: sugar-induced cereal, candy, and whatever other things that are hiding on the shelves of our house that exist because of some moment of parenting-weakness (while shopping in a grocery store with three neurotic children who are literally bouncing off the walls and knocking items off the shelf on purpose), but are not also dolled out because of an akin moment of pseudo parenting-strength.
But understandably, my two-year-old girl does not comprehend the logic of “if you were really hungry, you would eat what is in front of you”. Thus, the alarm is sounded again, cry wolf or not, and both sides fall into a familiar standoff not unlike two cowboys in the Wild West.
2) “I be youuuuuu.”
Translation: “I want to be with you.”
Again, this sounds like a legitimate plea. It would be…IF it wasn’t true that when she says this, we ARE with her. In fact, she usually says this when we are holding her in our arms. For a long time this didn’t make sense to us. We would respond by rolling our eyes, saying in an exasperated sigh, “I am with you” but it didn’t really make a difference. Then, when our backs were about to split in two from carrying around this little barnacle all day, or when we needed the use of both hands like most human beings have the delight of, we would set her down next to us as we, say, compose a meal that she requested with the first declaration covered above. If one has sensitive ears, this isalways an error. Immediately she begins to let us know “I be youuuuuuuu!” No matter what is said, she will stop from repeating it over and over. And over. And over. Did I mention and over yet? Just wanted to make sure I covered that detail. Mind you, when she is put down she is still so close that she is practically touching elbows with us or falling into the mixing bowl that we are hurriedly trying to stir.
3) “I want you.”
Translation: Statement is both grammatically correct and accurate in intended meaning.
This one isn’t a whole lot different from number 2. Lily will say this if we set her down on a chair. If she happens to be in our bed at night and one of us turns our back away from her or isn’t literally pressing her against our skin, she will say it. Even if it is 3am. Wait, did I type “say”? My apologies. I meant blood-curdling scream. She will shout this in a myriad of situations, like if we are reading books to the kids and she isn’t right dead-center on our lap.
She also will say this if Jacob or Joshua happen to snag a hug or a kiss from us during the day. Lily will immediately march over to us, declare “I WANT YOU.” Obviously, Lily can get a bit jealous over us loving our other children in the way she likes to be loved.
4) “I can’t see you.”
Translation: Statement is both grammatically correct and accurate in intended meaning, although absolutely bonkers.
This one started a few weeks ago. I was in the process of putting Lily to bed when she busted this one out. I got her ready for bed and into bed, though she was still laying there awake. I left her door open and stepped out of her room to clean up from the child-induced-whirlwind-of-a-day that primarily strikes the geographical location of the kitchen. Lily’s bedroom and the kitchen are right next to each other. The moment I left her sight she said, “I can’t see you.” I would say from the kitchen, “But see, I am right in here. Can you hear me?” She would repeat, “I can’t see you!” I would pop my head inside her doorway and say, “I am right here, see? I am just right out here in the kitchen.”
It didn’t matter. If she couldn’t see me, she was going to let me know. Now this was understandable and even cute at points, what with her little, high voice sweetly calling out as though it was a hide-and-seek game, “I can’t see you.” But soon this little stunt started to go into the realm of crazy.
Lily started saying this phrase when she could see me. I would be laying in the bed next to her and she would look me right in the eyes and say, “I can’t see you.” Now, my child is not physically blind, I promise. And the first few times she said this to me, I laughed really hard. I would say, “Yes you can! I am right here!” But she would just say it again. Over and over.
It didn’t take me long to draw the parallel, and maybe you were quicker to see the correlation than I was.
Simply said, I began to see my relationship with the Lord in what Lily says to me. I began to see how shortsighted I can be in relationship with Him. Everything Lily said and did was an accurate reflection of my outlook, at least at some point, of my relationship with the Lord.
The reality is that although the Lord is all around us, though He is constantly blessing us, though He is constantly working in our lives, though He is continually showing up, though He is always faithful to come through, we still convince ourselves that we cannot see Him. We still convince ourselves that He isn’t there, that He has abandoned us after all, that we screwed up too bad this time for Him to show up again, that He was just a figment of our imagination to begin with, and on and on.
We sit there and look into His eyes, then say, “I can’t see you”. We behold a sunset, and the only rational possibility is that God Himself painted such a beautiful spectacle for us, as nothing that beautiful just “happens”, and yet we don’t even see Him in it. Someone is saved from peril after we prayed and we quickly forget how divine the intervention was. Finances suddenly come in when you didn’t know how to make ends meet and a day later we are wondering where God went.
If it is true that we are “seated in heavenly places with Christ” that means that regardless what we feel, Christ is at the most a few feet away. Regardless of what we see or do not think we see, God is there. He is probably laying down right next to you, looking right in your eyes. God give us eyes to see.
I believe what Lily was trying to communicate by “I can’t see you” is that I wasn’t as close to her as she wanted. She wanted something different than what was available at that time, and instead of being thankful for the nearness that we could have had in those moments, she was stuck on what she thought was best for her. She couldn’t receive the intimacy of the moment because she was so concerned about getting something different.
God has taught me about this in relationship with Him. We ask Him for a lot of stuff. I don’t think that is bad. But when prayer becomes focusing on what God hasn’t done yet rather than what He IS doing and what He HAS done, it isn’t prayer. It is depression. It is a black hole. It is unbelief, and it doesn’t harms us rather than helps us.
Instead, I have found that we must learn how to see. We must choose to see what He is doing and what He has done rather than what He hasn’t. I got delivered/healed from depression when I learned how to apply this in my life. I learned to remember what God had done, write those things down, and remind myself of those things as often as I needed to until I felt encouraged again and convinced that He was near.
I used to tell the Lord all the time that I was hungry for more of Him, more of the Kingdom, etc. And while we should always be in a state of expectation in relationship with the Lord, always learning and moving forward, etc., at the same time if we fail to miss the meal that is sitting in front of us that God composed, namely, the beauty of the cross and the absolute astoundingness of the goodness of God therein, we have missed it. If we quickly pass over the revelation of the cross and can’t eat of what we already have, we surely will find ourselves hungry. Everything we need for sustenance was placed before us 2,000 years ago when Christ gave Himself as bread from heaven to be broken for us to consume. It is difference between thankful and being entitled. God doesn’t need to do one more thing to make your life better. It has already been done. It is finished. The way to make the cross affect our current situations is not by asking God to do more now, but by rooting and grounding ourselves in what He accomplished at Calvary. When I delight myself in what He has done and what that means for me, I find myself not hungry, but loved, full, and content. It is when I lose sight of what He has done and what He is doing in my life that I start to beg and plead and whine about needing a different meal to eat aside from the Bread that God Himself baked up just for me. It is also when I lose sight of what He has done and is doing is my life that I get jealous of the hug and kiss that my brother gets, but when I grounded in His love for me, I can rejoice in my brother’s moment in the spotlight of Daddy’s lap.
We also tell the Lord all the time, “I want you.” And just like we told Lily, God tells us, “You have me. You have all of me.” At her age, I can’t communicate to Lily in a way that she completely understands that not only does she have my full attention, my nearness, and my favor, but also my finances, my heart, and even my very life. It is a bit frustrating honestly. I want her to know it, and in time she will. She will discover the depths of my love and commitment to her as the years go by. She will learn that she can hit me up for $20 just about any time if she bats those eyes at me and asks nicely. She will learn that I would give my life to keep her safe. She will learn of my love.
You and I will too. We will learn of the Lord’s favor and absolute dedication to us. We will learn that everything He owns is ours. We will learn that we can have all of Him. You will learn of the beauty of the cross, that it communicates not only that God will pour Himself out to the extent of death to keep you safe, but that you have been brought into oneness with Him, so that it is impossible to not be near Him at all times. Our plea of “I want to be with you” will fade away as we realize that we are in fact with Him at all times. He is the God that does not leave us nor forsake us.