Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” John 6:26 NRSV
“It’s spiritually dead here!” explains the middle-aged woman to me.
“Nothing ever happens here!” she says, using her hands to exaggerate the point.
“Nothing of God ever happens here. Is that what you’re saying?”
“Yes, Pastor! It’s dead!”
“I’d beg to differ with you.”
“You’re the pastor. I would expect you to disagree!”
“Like last Saturday morning when the men’s bible study group prayed for a problem that Bobby was dealing with, and then we gathered around him and hugged him, and gave him encouragement! Or last week when I was out changing the letters on the church sign, and I got into a conversation with an 84-year-old lady who lives a block away from our church. A few of us are going to walk up to her house and trim her bushes and fix her screen door next Saturday! Or last Sunday when Patty brought out something from the scripture story, we were studying that caused a light bulb to go on in the minds of a few of us. I’m not sure what criteria you’re using to determine whether God’s involved or not, but those were all signs to me.”
She looked at me and bit her lip.
“Say it!” I urged her.
“Those things just aren’t very exciting, pastor! I’m looking for miracles and people who love the Lord, and I’m just not seeing much of that here.”
“So…have you been to see Widow Samuels? Because, even though she is in a care center now, whenever I go to visit her, I experience a spiritual blessing and marvel at her love for the Lord.”
“I don’t really like those kinds of places.”
“And last week I was sitting beside Joe Skinner’s bed and talking about the end of his life, his looking forward to experiencing the glory of the Lord in heaven, and how God has walked with him through a multitude of life valleys.”
“Those aren’t the things I’m talking about, Pastor. I’m talking about spiritual highs!”
“So you’re an addict?”
“You’re a spiritual addict, whose addiction can only be satisfied by an experience that is high energy and high emotion.”
“I knew you’d blame me!”
“I’m not blaming you for anything. I’m just stating what the situation is. You don’t seem to see God working in our midst unless something awesome happens. What is awesome, however, has to be defined by your standards. Am I right?”
“No, you aren’t right!”
“Then we will just agree to disagree. The spiritual life I’m seeing is different than what you’re looking for. I mean no disrespect in saying this but there are some people who go to an amusement park and define its impact by how many roller coasters it has and how thrilling they are. When I go to an amusement park, I evaluate it on being able to ride the merry-go-round with my grandkids. Different perspectives, neither which is wrong.”
“I’m not addicted, though!”
“And I’m not spiritually bored! So, I guess we’re both where we need to be!”
She smirks, starts to say something, but then turns and walks away. She has moved on to the next church down the road.
Five years after the conversation she has moved on three other times. Sometimes, it seems, we minimize the power of God by not allowing him to be involved in our rhythms of life. There is a hunger- an addiction, if you will- to wanting to see smoke on the mountaintop while missing the nearness of His presence.
Prayer: Lord, help us to find you in the silence, the stillness, and the ordinary. Forgive us when we become spiritually addicted to the dramatic and exciting.
First Baptist Church
If you enjoy Bill’s creative reflections on life and faith, visit his blog at WordsfromWW.com