Wisdom and Waldo
“Where’s Wally (Waldo)?” is an oft-asked question in a book series. In these books, a little guy named Waldo in a red and white striped shirt and glasses hides among many other characters. The reader is challenged to find Waldo amidst the many other characters in the illustration. Sometimes there are similar-looking characters that make his presence harder to locate. At times, when I have tried to find Waldo, I miss him even though he is always on the page.
Sometimes “finding God” can feel tricky. He cannot be seen with a red and white striped shirt and can seem hard to “find.” Yesterday was one of those days for me that is called a “Murphy’s law” day. Murphy’s law is known as a law where “if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.” I will spare the details of the day but suffice it to say it was challenging. Fortunately, this was on the heels of a good night’s sleep and some good Bible reading and prayer, so the situation didn’t sink me. Otherwise, I might have struggled mightily. Wyndham always sought to find God’s will in hard situations. Now, I strive to continually find God in Wyndham’s very difficult situation.
When we feel like God is hard to find, it helps to know that we are not alone. David, the man after God’s own heart laments, as described in the Message version in Psalm 22:2-6.
Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.
And you! Are you indifferent, above it all, leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
they cried for your help and you gave it; they trusted and lived a good life.
And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm, something to step on, to squash.
Have you ever felt like this? I have felt these feelings, wondering why God is at times hard to “find.” Thankfully, David continues in verses 22-24.
Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening.
Jesus understands the faith involved in believing what we cannot see. In John 20:29, after Jesus showed Thomas his pierced hands and feet Jesus states, “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
I take comfort that Jesus understands. When God seems to be hiding, He is, as David states, always right there, listening. Since I know that He is listening, I figure the best way to find Him is to speak to Him and let Him speak to me.
I have found a helpful practice for “finding God” when He seems distant. It involves finding a place by myself in my house and being still. As I take some time to slowly breathe in, I think about breathing in more of God’s life-giving Spirit. As I breathe out, I envision letting go of all my worries. Then, I “come into His presence with singing” (Psalm 100:1) by reading and/or singing hymns and spiritual songs.
Then, I read a few verses in the Bible and read them again, and again. I meditate on them by first asking cognitive questions such as “What does the scripture say? What does it mean? How do I apply it to my life?” Then, I move to more meditative ways of thinking as I ask, “How do I feel about what is being said? Where do I find myself resonating deeply? Where do I find myself pulling back, resisting, or wrestling with what is being said? Can I be honest with Jesus (and others) about these things? Why do I feel this way? And, what does this tell me about myself, my attitudes, and perspective?” Then I try to let God’s Spirit guide me to what is needed. (I learned this practice from the book Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton.) I try to pray throughout this time, as I read the Scriptures and seek to find God, up close and personal.
I also have added a helpful “pick me up” throughout the day. Remembering Gloria Baird’s “God’s pitcher” analogy, I placed a pack of Scriptures in a glass pitcher. (Thank you, Jim Smith, for giving me this pack of scriptures with a psalm on one side and a promise of God found in the New Testament on the other side.) Throughout the day, I pick a scripture to read and think about. So far, the scripture has always been just what is needed.
Deidrich Bonhoeffer wisely said, “In meditation, God’s Word seeks to enter in and remain with us. It strives to stir us, to work and operate in us, so that we shall not get away from it the whole day long. Then it will do its work in us, without being conscious of it.”
May we find God today, and every day. He is always eager to be found.