Raise your hand if you have heard this one before:
A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately. A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”
The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”
As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop. A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned. When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”
And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”
Many of us have a mindset that God must do magnificent things for us, because He is after all, magnificent. While this is true and many people do have amazing experiences with God, sometimes we spend more time looking for that grandiose moment instead of God’s interactions with us in the ordinary every day. Personally, I waited for a big part of my adult life to have that “conversion” moment. That moment when God just would overwhelm me, and after the clouds disappear then everything would be clear, I would steer clear of sin, and following Jesus would just come naturally. Now, I am not saying that this could not happen. It did for Paul, but for most of the rest of us, our “conversion” happens each day guided by prayer and having an openness to God in our daily lives. I still at times have the mindset that God will rescue me in a spectacular way from whatever befalls me. The problem is if we spend so much time looking for “that moment”, we may miss God’s presence working in our daily lives, much like the man in the story.
God comes to us in so many ways; the person that shows up on the side of the road when you’ve blown a tire, the neighbor who brings over food just as you’ve resigned yourself to going out, even though you do so in fear of the pandemic, and that surprise visit from a family member you may have been at odds with when you have been wondering how to breach the divide between you. Many people write these occasions off as coincidence. I remember seeing a comment once that said:
“Coincidence is when God chooses to be anonymous”
What a true statement that is. We need to be open and aware of the events around us and look for God’s hand in them. Prayer is the conversation that grows this awareness. As we get closer to God, we are more aware of His presence in our lives and we begin to receive God’s peace because we know He is there with us in everything we do. I am also a huge fan of spiritual direction. This has been tremendously helpful to me personally to have someone help me to see where God was present in my day and in situations that I missed Him at work in my life. If you are interested, I recommend reaching out to your church or parish to see if they have a spiritual direction program, or if they can point you to one. It may not be for everyone but be open to where the Spirit leads you during the process.
For those that have had those “conversion moments”, I would love to hear about them. For those that have been able to grow in their awareness of God in their lives, please share your story. You never know when something you have experienced may be able to help someone else along their journey.