Seeing God in the Details

On our first spring-like day of the season, it seems appropriate that we had Sunshine share with us. Here’s what she had to say:

photo credit: Darrell Godliman/flicker.com
photo credit: Darrell Godliman/flicker.com

By Sunshine Metschke

When Laura asked if I would contribute my voice on this topic of Windows of the Soul, my brain started spinning with all the ways I personally connect with God.

I delight in architectural design. I have zero capacity to design things, but I marvel at buildings that are both structurally sound and at the same time, eloquently detailed, bringing beauty to the landscape. I admire the individuals who have the talent to design and create such structures.

When I used to have cable, I would watch the History channel and get wrapped up in the stories of how cathedrals were raised over the course of decades . . . sometimes centuries, and I would marvel at the extensive physical labor that was involved and the primitive – yet effective – technology that was used to carve stone and LIFT stone and create these structures that, ultimately, pointed people to their Creator and became a physical sanctuary amidst the challenges of life.

Several years ago I was on the Berkeley campus in California on a beautiful July day. I was not on an official visit, nor did I sign up for a campus tour. I was just a random person wandering around the campus, soaking in the California sun surrounded by the buzz of summer classes and literal tree-hugging protests. I walked through buildings at my leisure, looking at historical pieces and again, marveling at the structures.  One building in particular was breathtaking – the Hearst Memorial Hall of Mining. It had an atrium three stories tall, with multiple domes on the ceiling that were filled with skylights. The detail in this part of the building was incredible – iron railings with a green patina, pendant lights, a fabulous brick design leading up to the skylights, arched doorways.  It was the type of building fit for a gala event with music and dancing and celebration.  Industrial yet elegant. And standing silently, and probably illegally, in this gorgeous building, I connected with the grandeur of God. This memory is still impacting me nearly 7 years later.

I am also drawn in by pieces of art.  I love to walk through this hallway here at Berean and the other galleries around the building and get a glimpse of an artist’s talent and innovation. I am always impressed with how artists will incorporate various media into their pieces to articulate their vision. I respect the vulnerability with which artists reveal themselves to us, and tell us a bit about their stories, their experiences, their hopes, their perspectives. I love how photographers capture simple, sweet and elegant moments of life with their unique vantage points, and also how they document the heart-wrenching and life-changing moments that change the course of our individual and collective histories.

I marvel at science. I haven’t always marveled at this discipline – in fact I’m sure I have cursed it a few times. I got my only F in high school Biology because I just could not wrap my brain around the subject of mitosis. I once pulled a D in college Biology because I protested the dumb topic I was given for my final research project. I was supposed to write an 8-page paper with the answer to why King Henry the Eighth’s urine was pink, but instead I called my professor when it was due to say, “look, here’s the answer.” But, now I value science so much more because I understand the connection it has with God.  Who created the brains that can think science-y things?  Who gave humans the capacities to discover and explore and ask and research?

Probably one of my favorite ways to connect with God is by watching little people develop. I am in awe of the way the human body conceives, carries, and grows a tiny person!  There are so many intricacies that can only be traced back to an intelligent designer, that I am just constantly amazed. I love watching my boys make connections and grow and become their own personalities.  I love watching them develop spatial awareness as they fit shapes into sorters, stack blocks, learn how cars roll, learn how to throw a ball, learn about gravity when they drop food on the floor OVER AND OVER AND OVER.  Sam is almost 2, but at about 14 months, he began to understand simple questions or commands, even though he had no verbal words to communicate.  “Should we go get a snack?” I’d ask and he would shake his head “uh huh” and run to the pantry with the excitement of a puppy about to get a treat. I find great joy in celebrating the intricacies of human development.

Of course it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of our God as reflected in nature. The changing seasons, the details of the life cycle of leaves and flowers and how plants are pollinated and how smart birds are. And how can you encounter the majesty of a snow-capped mountain and not thank the One who put them there? Sidenote: I don’t delight in squirrels and firmly believe God created them purely for His personal enjoyment.

I think it boils down to this: I connect with God through intricacies. The intricacy of architecture. The intricacy of an artist’s painting or sculpture. The intricacies of science – which I now admire. The intricacies of the human body – beginning with conception and evolving throughout our lifetimes. The intricacies of nature. All are glimpses into the character of our amazingly articulate, artistic, detailed and absolutely genius God.

But as I prepared for this morning, I started to ask myself, when did I first begin to recognize these connections to God in my life?  When did I begin to truly see His work in the situations around me?  I realized, for a large part of my life, it was easy for me to see God’s handiwork in the lives of others, but I hadn’t yet recognized His constant presence in my own life.

Sometime in the late 90s, I attended a workshop at my in which the facilitator asked us to create a timeline of our major life events – the good, the bad, the ugly – and challenged us to begin thinking differently about these events. Instead of just random events that marked our lives for better or worse, we began to recognize how God was orchestrating events, people, and places to lead us on a different journey.

One of these “major life events” for me happened in my toddler years. My parents divorced, I think sometime before I was two, and my mom and I lived with my grandparents. This time of my life had always caused questions, confusion, feelings of abandonment, and I made up my own truth about the events that surrounded it.

Throughout the workshop, I began to see this event – what had always been a negative association, wondering where God was in all of this – as a doorway to opportunity.  My birth father’s leaving and relinquishment of parental rights opened the door to a better future.  When I was 4, my mom remarried  to the man I now, and have always, called my father.  And now, looking back through a different filter, I could see this as the beginning of God’s provision: a stable father figure, who was hard-working and provided everything we needed (and many times also what we wanted); a consistent and loving church family which gave me a solid foundation for my faith and an environment in which I could thrive; the opportunity to go to college and choose a career, and much more.

So, it’s been easy for me to articulate the ways in which God has been my provider, because, since I started looking at life through a different filter, I’ve seen His provision time and time again: An unexpected check coming in the mail at just the right time. A wave of warm weather for a mama that’s been stuck inside with two adventurous boys during a frigid winter. A delivery of used boy clothes from a friend. A random “I wuv you, mama” from a little voice in the back seat after a particularly rough morning. Just enough food in the pantry to stretch the grocery budget for the week.

But God is so much more than just a provider!  So let’s put on a different set of glasses for a moment and think through some of the other areas that He reveals Himself to us:

  • I recognize God’s creativity in my 4-year-old who makes up jokes. Like, “What did the chicken say to the other chicken?  Nothing. They’re just chickens!” I also see God’s creativity in my peers who are in the midst of raising little people, but they’re exploring their passions at the sewing machine, by baking bread, by writing food blogs and designing goods to make life work a little smoother. God’s creativity is all around us.
  • I know God’s gentleness, as I constantly reflect on how He has pursued me as His child.
  • I have experienced God’s salvation, not just from a life of eternal misery, but salvation from MYSELF and the misery that I cause.
  • I have leaned into God’s wisdom as the Spirit has prompted me to walk in a certain direction or speak an encouraging word.
  • I’ve seen His trustworthiness time and time again, as I relinquish my desire to control a situation, and allow Him to work out the details.
  • I’ve seen His compassion through a friend that delivered flowers to my door when I returned home from the hospital after having a miscarriage.  She knew I was resting and didn’t want to disturb me, but she left flowers, and honestly, I could feel her big, strong, loving hug just by looking at the cheerful gesture.
  • I have felt His nearness at a time in my life when I felt physically quite alone. One day when I was working in the office, about 2 ½ years into my three-year separation from my husband, I remember being at the end of my rope. It was after lunch and I wasn’t quite sure which of my office mates had returned to their desks yet.  In a desperate and sheepish voice I called out, “Are you all here?” And everyone peeked their heads out of their cubicles and turned their chairs around.  And I confessed, “I don’t think I can hold on any longer.” And I crumbled. And they came rushing to me. And through their tears and hugs and sobs and prayers, I physically felt the nearness of God.  Psalm 27:13 says, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I have felt His nearness and I have seen His goodness through those around me.
  • I’ve seen His grace through the leaders on this staff.  10 years ago I would have classified myself as a know-it-all. I had never been an administrative assistant before.  But as an administrative assistant, my ideas were always the best. I always had the right solution to any situation. My way of doing it was always the most efficient. I was kind of a steamroller, and I was honestly pretty destructive. But I experienced God’s grace time and time again as I sat under leaders who loved me, who saw the best in me, who gently called out my sins, and who offered forgiveness. I deserved to be shown the door. But instead, I was made better because of God’s grace through others.
  • I have known God as my Sustainer as I struggled through those early years of marriage in pain and confusion, waiting for the next shoe to drop.  And somehow there was never a shortage of shoes TO BE DROPPED. But, when I had nothing with which to carry on, God continued to sustain me.
  • I see God’s redeeming power as I reflect on my marriage that – for half of the 10 years we’ve been married – was tumultuous, full of pain and confusion; but is now on a path of friendship, intimacy, and reflecting God’s redemptive love.
  • I am thankful for God’s sovereignty, as I have more than once attempted to manipulate a situation to my own desirable outcome. And God’s sovereign intervention created an outcome that was SO MUCH MORE than I could have ever manufactured.

So those are just a few examples from my life in which God has revealed glimpses of His character to me.

When we begin to reflect on the ways that God has revealed Himself in our lives, we begin to train ourselves to look differently at our past and future experiences, using a different filter – the filter of God’s character.

But what about those times when God is really difficult to see?

When the relationship appears like it will never be restored? When a life-altering diagnosis strikes someone you love dearly, and the future looks grim? When you’ve lost your job and there are no prospects on the horizon?  When a child has wandered far away, with no promise to return?

Though we’re not experiencing God’s goodness at the moment, does that mean that He is not good?  Though we don’t see His redemption at the moment, is He not redeeming all things? When the situation is raging out of control, does this mean that God is not in control?

These are the moments that our faith comes to the forefront. The moments we must trust who He says He is. Trust what we know to be true about Him. And if we don’t know Him, then these are the times to get to know Him in life-giving ways. How?  In His Word. Who does He say He is?  My Rock, My Fortress, My Hiding Place, My Redeemer. What does He say He will do?  Protect, Provide, Shelter, Cover, Comfort. And so much more.

So how about you?  How is your vision these days? Is it clouded with confusion, or is your path clearly revealed by the light of God’s truth?  Do you need practice looking at your life through a different filter?

I’d like you to reflect on the areas where you’ve seen God’s character clearly in your life.  What was the situation, and which aspects of God’s character can you now identify as being present? What areas do you need to trust He is working . . . He is providing . . . He is exactly what you need?

In closing, can I pray for you?  For us?

Father, thanks for giving us each unique avenues to connect with You. Would you give us new eyes to see You, as you reveal your character to us?  And in those moments where you are very hard to see, would you give us the faith to trust who You are?  Lord of our hearts, be our vision. Don’t be anything else to us except everything that You are. Amen.

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