Are you too distracted for God?
Recently I wrote an essay, God is here…I just keep missing him.
And it got me thinking a little more…
Am I paying enough attention? Am I too distracted for God?
In all of my obligations and encounters, in the opportunities that arise and the chances that disappear, in the fortunate coincidences and the frustrating setbacks, am I looking for the hand of God? Now, I know, I know. God is mysterious and our interpretation of his ways must be approached with great care. We are not God. And William James made a humbling point when he observed,
“We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.”
If, in our great deficit of understanding, we overconfidently assert the will of God in this event or that occurrence, we risk being like the suffering Job and his puzzling friends – one is frustrated by God’s injustice, the others assured of Job’s fault. Both, in the end, are wrong. Southern Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote about this potential of misperception when she encountered the overly analytical English teacher (“an earnest type”) obsessed with symbols (at the expense of wholesome wonder) in her novel, A Good Man is Hard to Find. As O’Connor would recall,
Week before last I went to Wesleyan [College] and read A Good Man is Hard to Find. After it I went to one of the classes where I was asked questions. There were a couple of young teachers there and one of them, an earnest type, started asking the questions. “Miss O’Connor,” he said, “why was the Misfit’s hat black?” I said most countrymen in Georgia wore black hats. He looked pretty disappointed. Then he said, “Miss O’Connor, the Misfit represents Christ, does he not?” “He does not,” I said. He looked crushed. “Well, Miss O’Connor,” he said, “what is the significance of the Misfit’s hat?” I said it was to cover his head; and after that he left me alone.
We are not God. But just because we cannot fully divine his mysterious workings doesn’t mean that he doesn’t provide us with a beautiful glimpse. Instead of being the aloof Clockmaker who winds up his timepiece and stands removed from its ticking until the end of time, God is a devoted Father who lived, suffered and died with his Creation so that he could show us the way home. If we want to know God, we must know Christ – the Christ of Scripture who taught and guided, disciplined and reassured. This living Christ transcendent of time and space is the face of an ineffably loving God. He is vitally invested in our eternal success. He is the teacher who gave us the answers; the puzzle master who gave us the essential pieces. Such a deeply committed God still speaks to us. And the joy of daily life is in our search for and sense of his holy presence.
But this is difficult.
We are worried and uncertain. We are self-absorbed and distracted. The devil loves distraction. Just consider how often you start praying and your mind starts to wander. Recall, for a moment, C.S. Lewis’ proud atheist in The Screwtape Letters. The moment he starts to honestly consider the argument for God, the devil is at his side telling him he is hungry. And the next thing you know, the confirmed atheist is in search of a meal instead of Eternity. Instead, with eyes of faith (“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”) and open ears (“We are no longer able to hear God…there are too many frequencies filling our ears.”), we should recognize this devilish effort for what it is. And dismiss it.
To effectively encounter God, we must take on the difficult task of paying attention. We must confront the devil’s greatest (and most insidious) weapon: distraction. Amidst the buzz of technology and the race of our schedules, we must clear our minds, focus our hearts and be quiet. To hear, we must listen… for otherwise we may miss the whispers of angels. To see, we must look…or else we risk passing over the beatific vision.
The famous physician, William Osler, once observed,
“We miss more by not seeing than we do by not knowing.”
And Catholic writer, Charles Peguy, reminded,
“We must always tell what we see. Above all, and this is more difficult, we must always see what we see.”
When you look for God today, what do you see? When you listen for God, what do you hear?
Or are you too distracted for God?
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