“So, sometimes I get a really strong but quick feeling of happiness,” he says. “Like the other day, when I watched the wind blowing the cedar boughs. I felt a burst of happy feeling. What is that? Why does that happen?”
We are snuggled on the couch, sharing a fleece blanket, our books open on our laps.
“Well, when that happens to me, I tend to think it’s God,” I say, nudging my glasses down on my nose so I can look at Noah over the frames. “You know, God is with us all the time, but I think sometimes he makes himself extra noticeable, sort of as a way to tell us to pay attention. I think those happy moments that come out of nowhere are God.”
Our conversation reminds me of an experience I had about a year ago, just after my father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It was the Christmas season, but I was so angry, bitter and sad, my heart was hardened against joy. All I felt during those dark days was the weight of grief.
One night, as I stood at the kitchen sink with an apron around my waist and a stack of dirty dishes on the counter and my arms elbow-deep in soapy water, I felt an inexplicable flash of joy. And I knew instantly it was God, making his presence known to me, assuring me that despite the darkness, despite the fact that we were walking in the shadow of death, we would be okay. We would laugh and celebrate and find joy again.
Such was the case with Peter, John and James when they hiked with Jesus up the mountain to pray. I imagine the mood that day was somber. Just days before, Jesus had told his disciples that he would suffer, be killed and be raised from the dead — news that must have been terrifying and confusing for them. I suspect they were bewildered, unsure of themselves and afraid, perhaps even wavering in their faith or questioning their decision to follow Jesus. I imagine that hike up the mountain was a quiet one, as each man contemplated Jesus’ dire prediction, dread and fear creeping into the pits of their stomachs. Perhaps they, too, felt like they were journeying into the shadow of death.
At the top of the mountain Peter, John and James inexplicably fell asleep while Jesus prayed and as “the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Luke 9:29) Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus, and “they were glorious to see.” (9:31). When the disciples awoke, they were shocked to see “Jesus’ glory,” with Moses and Elijah standing next to him. Amazed, the three disciples scrambled to process the unbelievable sight.
Jesus understood that his disciples needed to be shaken awake. He understood that they needed to stop, stand still and take notice. And just as Jesus knew his beloved disciples needed a jolt of joy and reassurance, he knows when we, too, need to be awakened to his constant presence.
We don’t always experience God’s presence in such a dramatic way, in the magnitude of a transfiguration or in the midst of dark grief. Sometimes God shows himself on an ordinary day, in a seemingly ordinary way. Like in the hallowed hush of wind through cedar boughs.
Can you think of a time when God stopped you in your tracks and made his presence known? How can you make a practice of catching more of these moments?
Linking with Ann Voskamp and her Wednesday series on the Practice of Radical…because seeing God on an ordinary day, in a seemingly ordinary way, is radical indeed:
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