Searching for the divine can lead to a constant assumption that what we need always lies just beyond our grasp. But but what if we exchanged our search for God for something else? What if instead of constantly searching for Him you let God find you.
Waiting for God to find you isn’t about closing your eyes. It isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass hoping someone wakes you up offering a ride home. But it does mean that you are willing to hold the idea that you are lost. You begin to loosen your grip on the idea that you can find your way out of where ever it is you are. You sit, eyes and ears open in the tension that you can’t fix this, and need a sign to get you home.
Sometimes I think God has showed up in our lives, finding us in our desperation but we didn’t recognize the divine because we were expecting something else.
A friend of mine was finishing up his time at a residential treatment centre for addiction. He had spent a number of weeks learning about what drives his choices and behaviours. A couple of days before he was being discharged he met with me and told me of his disappointment with spirituality.
‘I just want to have a tangible connection to God’ he explained.
This seemed to be an important missing link in his ongoing sobriety. So he decided to take a long walk through the forest behind the centre. It was fall and the leaves where in full colour. As he walked the trail he peered up through the canopy and asked God to say something, to speak in a way that would remind him he wasn’t alone. After a few hours of walking, his prayers became silent as they seemed ignored.
He looked at me and said
‘Aaron, I suddenly felt ridiculous, I looked like a fool talking to the sky and expecting somehow to feel heard. It wasn’t that I needed thunder, but just a feeling that God cared. But He has never ever spoken to me, I have never felt the divine in my life.’
I was impressed that he was willing to talk to me about it, most would just strike it up as another reason why they don’t believe in anything beyond the material world.
I know the feeling too well.
I have walked hospital corridors asking God for a sign. I have wandered the streets were I live, and have cried myself to sleep begging the universe to show up.
What if the the reason we cannot hear and see God is because sometimes we don’t know what we are looking or listening for. And when he does show up we just don’t recognize him. And when he does speak we miss it, perhaps the divine language of love isn’t English.
I looked my friend in the eyes and and spoke with an assurance that can only come from lived experience. This is what I said;
‘You just told me you were walking through the forest in autumn, surrounded by the beauty of creation. You are about to leave an addiction treatment centre—sober. You have family and friends that have supported you through this. You have an amazing job waiting for you when you return, and a partner ready to help you. You can’t hear what God is saying to you? He is telling you are loved, surrounded by beauty.You are more than what brought you here.’
My friend was silent, then he looked at me and said
‘How could I have missed it? How did I not know that was God speaking to me. I had all but given up searching for him, and He came and found me. I was looking past all the beauty that is in my life.’
He hugged me as he left the room.
Sometimes I think we are expecting God to speak in an audible voice and tell us that He is real and it’s all going to be ok— but we are missing it? What if He has blown the budget to tell you that very same thing in the world around us. He has bent the laws of the universe to show you.
After my friend left the room, I sat there for a minute. Tears filling my eyes and gratitude filling my heart. Little did my friend know that I was praying for the very same thing that morning. Looking for the loving intelligence that is the universe to show up in my life as well. But in that moment God didn’t show up in the Beauty of an autumn forest, or a sunrise. That morning God spoke to me through an addict. God reminded me that when I am at the end of my search to merely stop long enough to look around. Perhaps what I am looking for is already in my life. I’m glad we don’t always find what we are looking for, because sometimes we don’t really know what it is.
When our search for that which seems always just beyond our grasp comes to an end, we may discover we have already been found and we may already be holding what it is we seek.
Here is a poem I wrote on a similar theme
Sitting with the Trees.
Another day without divine light.
I stumble ahead hoping to be surprised by what I find.
But my darkness is not a surprise.
Why don’t you speak?
It would take so little to turn my heart back to you.
Another day I search for proof of life
I watch the trees
They seem to feel you and know of your love.
But I don’t bend like them in the wind,
I break under the pressure of life.
Teach me to bend like the trees
Show me how to let the cares of the world pass through me.
When I look through the forest and see the sky beyond—
Help me to know the trees are not an obstacle hindering,
But a teacher showing me how to be.