Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
Psalm 77:19 (NIV)
Do you ever have an idea that just sort of sits there begging for your attention, but you’re not sure what to do with it? It just sits there. You might forget it’s there for a time, but then every once in a while it reminds you that it is sitting there. “Hey, Tom! I haven’t gone away. I’m still here!”
I try to keep track of those things. I write them down. Sometimes it’s a matter of timing and it’s waiting for its time. It’s like this commercial I remember from my childhood. Orson Welles (a famous old actor) is sitting there holding a glass of wine and he said, “We will sell no wine before its time.” The idea is sitting there fermenting, aging, preparing for the right time. Other times it’s a matter of pursuit. I have to go after the idea, work it, play with it, throw it on the potter’s wheel to see what it becomes.
For a while now, I’ve had an idea for a series of messages, maybe Wayfarer Weekend podcasts, or a book. The theme is the most common notions we have about God, Jesus, the Bible, and the church that are completely wrong based on evidence in the Great Story. It’s about asking the question “Why do we keep saying this, believing this, praying this, acting this way when the Great Story clearly says….”
As I read today’s chapter, Psalm 77, that idea reared its head from my mental hard drive and said, “Hey Tom! I’m still here!” Here’s why:
Psalm 77 is a song of Asaph. It’s a great one to read and meditate on if-and-when you find yourself depressed, lost, drowning in grief, despairing, feeling abandoned, and convinced that God is completely absent. The song itself is Asaph’s journey. The first half is all about his feeling alone in the pit of despair. The middle stanza (verses 13-15) is the hinge or the inflection point in which Asaph consciously chooses to think back to all the things God has done in all of the stories in the Great Story. In the second half of the song Asaph finds himself walking with the Hebrew people out of captivity in Egypt as God parted the waters of the Red Sea and the people walked through. It’s at that point that Asaph makes an important realization: “Our path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.“
One of the things that I hear people praying every week when our local gathering of Jesus followers meets, and I catch myself praying from time-to-time, is for God to be present:
“God, be with us…”
“I pray for your presence…”
“Jesus, be near…”
“Holy Spirit, come.”
As Asaph mentally walks with the Hebrews through the Red Sea he looks down at the dry sea floor. Then he looks up at the head of the line where God is leading the procession as a pillar of fire, and this meant that God made no footprints. So what? Asaph makes the same realization that I constantly have to make myself. I’m looking for a footprint, a sign, a feeling, some tangible evidence that God is here and has not abandoned me but the truth is that God is omnipresent.
Paul writes to Jesus’ followers in Colossae that “in [Jesus] all things hold together.” Jesus is the dark matter, the gluon, the thing that holds all matter in the universe together. He is knit into the very fiber of my being, the chair I’m sitting on, the desk I’m writing this on, and the keyboard I’m tapping. The problem is not that God is absent, the problem is that I’m blind to the obvious. I’m oblivious to the elephant in the room. I’m standing in the middle of troubled waters looking down at my feet for signs of God’s footprints ignoring the fact that God is there holding back the waters from falling down on me.
Why am I asking for the very things that I say I already believe? Oh, me of little faith!
I don’t need to pray for God’s presence. I need to pray that God will heal my spiritual blindness. I need to pray for the eyes of my heart to be open. Like Asaph, I need to take a little spiritual trek through the Great Story where I’m reminded time-and-time again:
“I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”
“I am with you always.”
“I am always present. I’m the very thing holding everything together.”
I need to stop looking for footprints and pull out my spiritual electron microscope. If I really believe what I say I believe, then Jesus is here in-and-between every atom of my very body. In every moment, He’s holding me together.
In the quiet this morning, I find myself praying for the spiritual sight I need to comprehend just how powerfully present God really is in each and every moment of this day.