by Rebekah Bled
“But I do believe that God is with us even when we’re at our craziest and that this goodness guides, provides, protects, even in traffic.”
So Anne Lamott writes on the 110th page of Traveling Mercies, so I dare to believe. God is with us at our craziest—guiding, providing, protecting. Even at 5:08 pm on highway 169, headed south. I believe this, but I do have moments of indignation that this withness is not more glaringly obvious.
I mean, the Israelites got a pillar of cloud by day, fire by night, dry passage through the Red Sea and manna in the wilderness. Samuel got a voice so audible he thought it was his guardian, Eli. Joseph had dreams. Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth all received babies when they knew it was impossible. Even this person I know got such and such and so and so, and on and on it goes.
I compare my internal questions with the externalities of others’ stories and feel sorry for myself. Where is the God who protects, provides, and guides, even in traffic when I’m the one who’s driving? How do I know, and not just believe that God is with me?
Well. It took more than twenty years, but I have a hypothesis: I think I need to pay attention. Perhaps a rhythm of being still and noticing is called for.
I dedicated this summer to the experiment of stillness in order to find out. Using Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day by Peter Scazzero as my guidebook, I practiced a twice-daily rhythm of silence, scripture, journaling my response to the questions posed, and then silence again.
I am here to report that the ancient Israelites have nothing on me now. In the silence, in the scripture, in the honest processing of deep questions, God was there guiding, providing, protecting. As he is when I am making a left turn out of a school parking lot at 3:40 pm on a weekday. But I was unable to notice God with me in traffic, until I noticed God with me in stillness. And this is the remarkable thing: God’s presence does not depend on my notice of him. His goodness does not rest on my experience of it. His protection is active whether or not I perceive or ignore it. God is God regardless of my reaction.
But my reaction matters to my own perception. Though God is God regardless, it would not be difficult to skate on by this fact, navigating traffic on my own, comparing my experience to others’ stories, wondering why God didn’t try ever so slightly harder, when in fact it is me who is refusing to show up.
Jo Saxton and Stephanie Williams discuss on their Lead Stories podcast how God always shows up. The variable is whether or not we will. When I choose to show up consistently, my very life is transformed.
I’ll close with a question and another quote from Anne Lamott, this one from the 163rd page of the same wonderful book.
“I believe when all is said and done, all you can do is show up…which seems so inadequate. But then when you do, it can radically change everything.”
What is your own ongoing story of the “withness” of God? What rhythms are you ignoring or creating to help you show up?
Rebekah Bled has served in missions with YWAM in Central America and Europe, as a Youth Minister in South America, and now as the College and Young Adult Minister at First United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rebekah is a graduate of Oklahoma Wesleyan University and an Intercultural Studies and Church Planting student at Asbury Theological Seminary. She is married to her soulmate, Philippe. Rebekah likes telling stories, collecting magnets at airports, and empowering the agency of teenagers and young adults.