What is it about a car wreck that keeps us from looking away? No matter how busy our morning or crammed our schedules, when we see those flashing blue lights and watch the EMTs stooping to help pull a driver from their mangled car, we slam our brakes to get a better look. Is the person okay? Is the car totaled? Who else was involved? The more sensational the event, the worse the rubbernecking.
Psychologists say the common practice of rubbernecking is human instinct–a wild mix of empathy, shock and curiosity. It’s the reason people gobble up horror stories on the news. It’s the reason why celebrity gossip magazines are all the rage. One of the many problems with rubbernecking is that it’s dangerous for other drivers. It congests the freeway, causing traffic jams on opposing sides of the roads and makes life ten times harder for first responders.
If we aren’t careful, we can do the same with our spiritual life.
We are a fickle people. We either tend to put God in a box and say ‘He can only work in this situation, with these parameters…”, or we want to take Him in pieces. We want God for the BIG stuff. The miracles. The fire falling from heaven. We become hyper-spiritual, looking for signs to create them into what we want them to be. In our strive for spirituality, we make God into our image, craving Him for the Mount Carmel moments, the splitting of the Red Sea, and raising the dead to life. There is something so alluring about the flash and dazzle of sensation, but left unchecked, we can inadvertently become ‘wonder junkies’ for Jesus–rubbernecking for the next grandiose display.
The problem is that when we follow Christ, we must take Him exactly how He is. He doesn’t always reveal Himself in fire. Many days are filled with quiet. Silent service to those who can do nothing for us. Cleaning up spilled Cheerios with a grateful heart. Showing kindness to the angry driver who cut us off in traffic. Refusing to gossip about the co-worker that makes life miserable for everyone around her.
Joseph is a perfect example. Abused and sold away by his brothers, he was taken to a foreign land and given a cushy job…until he was falsely accused of a crime. He languished in prison for over two years. That’s over 720 days! 720 days in captivity watching rats scurry across the floor. 720 days of seeing people be pardoned, others executed, all while wondering if God had forgotten him completely. Joseph had no idea how the story would end. There were no miraculous signs that appeared in his jail cell from day to day. No voice from heaven. Only silence.
Ah, but then…
God moved in a big way.
God’s often favors the path of doing small in a big way. Humility to demonstrate sacrificial love. Compressing Himself into the womb of a virgin in order that He might walk in our skin, feel our pain and die for our sins. There is great power, yes, but also times of great quiet.
“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” ~Psalm 115:3
Following Jesus is about refusing our old ornery natures to submit to the better way of loving people through His Spirit. He may use you to rescue someone from a burning building. He may use you to speak a word of encouragement to someone at the grocery store who is longing for connection. All of it is relevant. All of it important. If we’re constantly feeling let down because we haven’t seen God move in a ‘big way’, maybe it’s because WE want to be seen. Ouch.
What if God doesn’t choose to heal you in some miraculous way? What if His plan involves showing His strength through your weaknesses to those who are watching you? Will you still praise Him then? What if He chooses to leave you in that uncomfortable situation because He will receive more glory from it? What if it’s not about changing your circumstances, but changing you into the image of His Son through your circumstances?
God isn’t always in the fire, or the earthquake, or the mighty wind. Sometimes He uses a still, small voice.