A Paradox and Gratitude
This morning I was reading the entry for the third Sunday in Lent in Henry J. Nouwen’s book and thinking about God’s providence over the Israelites’ passage from Egypt. I find it interesting how God’s people had such a hard time trusting and believing in His providence. How miracle after miracle the Lord is revealing to them His providence, care, and sovereignty, and they moan and groan and question. It appears only Moses can see and understand the work of God but only because of his deep communion with God and often on his people's’ behalf.
In a time where miracles and wondrous works and supernatural acts occurred how could God’s people not see His work being done before their eyes? He parts a sea of water, literally, the Red Sea, before their eyes and allow them to cross on dry land, and they can’t trust Him and don’t see Him. Were acts similar to these so commonplace that believing them was no big deal? What if God parted the Chesapeake and we all walked to Washington, DC, what would we think or say if we even could mutter a word? It’s an interesting paradox between the people of God of that time and we as Christians today: the people of Moses’s time had very little material good or blessing aside from what was required for daily sustenance and survival and yet they had every mind-blowing miracle and piece of physical evidence they might need in order to more wholly see the work of God in their midst, and they were never satisfied; we today have tangible material blessing upon blessing upon blessing, every piece of technology at our fingertips, every holy distraction and piece of entertainment known to man, and community galore, and no sea-parting miracles. Oddly, beyond this, we seek miracles such that if they were to happen this day, thenwe would be able to fully believe because we could wholly see. And ever so quickly we disregard the common grace shown through seemingly ordinary providence like running water and daily bread.
I don’t believe that we as a people this day and age have the capacity to see or ability to believe miracles like they did in that time. I think we are inhibited by so many factors, be it technology, relationships, jobs, whatever. God would have to scream at us, and sometimes He tries, in order to get our attention, but He mostly operates within a whisper. And when we are busy and tirelessly cranking through life and its mundanities and hardships with the hope of finding meaning through personal providence, it’s no surprise we come up dry in our own little sea. Or worse, we drown.
This all begs the question, when conditions between history’s people is so vastly different, who is it among these groups that truly believes and trusts God? If we should call it such, where is the middle ground, the place where we meet God in fully understanding His providence? If not merely by miracles or material blessing, then where? This leads me to believe that we as God’s people, and myself above all, have horribly misunderstood why a heart postured in gratitude to the One who tirelessly and lovingly provides all that we ask even matters. What if our hearts were inclined to humble gratitude over the seeking of miracles? Inclined to gratitude over the idea of being fulfilled by a supernatural act or sign from God? I have personally seen (in others) that it is those with the most lowly of heart before the Lord that not only see Him in the daily mist but in awesome miracles. And His miracles, too, are whispers. And a heart quieted by gratitude will be inclined to fully see God.
Written March 3, 2013