Q. What is it like when God shows up?
A. Depends on who you are!
Have you ever noticed how many different presentations God uses in Scripture? Sure we all know about God high and lifted up, seated on a throne, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Good stuff.
And the still small voice which spoke to Elijah is also a cliché in our religious cultures.
Between the two bookends of the immensity of God and His strategic downsizing when speaking to a super sized prophet, we find a wide range of presentations. Each variant tells us something about God’s relationship with that individual.
Take Gideon’s situation. He is an army officer, the veteran of a disastrous battle where his brothers were brought home in body bags. Clearly he came home with PTSD. Not only that, but his theology was badly shattered because he thought he had been fighting that battle on behalf of God, and God showed no interest in their battle.
A lot of you reading this know what it is like to sincerely, absolutely, completely believe that a battle you have engaged in began with a direct call from God to you, it is righteous in the extreme, needed, timely and if you do your part, God will intervene and bring you great victory.
So . . . you did your thing and God did nothing.
And you were left holding tragedy in both hands, while your faith was left whimpering in the shadows of your shock.
That is Gideon.
Life went on without his permission.
He learned to cope with the tragedy but that was all he had the energy to do. Faith remained comatose.
So God showed up to the loser and said, “You are my champion who is going to lead Israel to victory.”
To which Gideon quite understandably responded, “Yeah, right!”
Jesus is no stranger to Christians with emotional PTSD plus faith that is shattered. He was up for this argument. On the surface the discussion was about who Gideon was. At the root the discussion really was about who Jesus was.
Jesus was winning the argument when Gideon made a desperate move. He said, “If you are God, will you kindly sit here on a rock in the forest doing nothing for a couple or three hours while I go fix you lunch?”
God said, “Deal.”
Gideon had to catch, kill and butcher the calf, grind the wheat to make the flour to make the bread, and cook it all. Eventually he showed up at the rock with the picnic lunch and to his relief and surprise, God-who-looked-like-a-human was still there.
Tell you what. I have looked at this for 40 years and I still don’t get it.
I get that Gideon was scared to death to buy into another “word from the Lord” especially when that “word” had the letters “w” or “a” or “r” in it. This I understand.
I get that God showed up without His fire and brimstone. He looked like an ordinary Hebrew with just a touch of command presence.
But how does cooking lunch for God prove to Gideon that this brawny stranger was THE God of Israel?
I have no clue.
Sure God did a bang up miracle when Gideon came back with the food and convinced Gideon that He WAS God, but that was sure not on Gideon’s radar when He left God sitting on a rock.
So what did Gideon expect? How would God’s reaction to prime rib au jus prove that He was God?
I still have no clue.
This is a recording.
All I know for sure is that I would not have approached the problem of positively IDing God that way. It wouldn’t work for me. But it did work for Gideon, and God humored him because He knew it was what Gideon needed to do.
Or put another way, God met Gideon where he was, with his PTSD, shattered faith and his deep need to cook dinner for God.
And that says more about God than it does about Gideon.
Father, we celebrate that You do not use shock and awe on people who have PTSD. We worship You for Your willingness to engage people in their own emotional language.
And Father, we invite You to bring to Balmoral people who need to meet You on their own terms. Bring the ones who have served You and been devastated. Bring the ones who have been burned by religion and walked away from You. Bring those who have seen religion from a distance and judged You to be toxic.
With its gift of Mercy, we feel Balmoral should be a place where the disjointed and disgusted people of the world can come and meet You in totally unique ways.
Let each story be a celebration of Your exquisite understanding of the pathway through the minefield of their prejudices and pathologies.
We ask You to bring the Gideons of the world to Balmoral, to let them serve You a prime rib dinner in the forest if that is what it takes, then to send them forth to liberate the captives, once they have been liberated from their past.
Copyright October 2011 by Arthur Burk
Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.