Can you see the batteries in the above picture?
I’m about to tell you where they are…
Ok, they’re in the white container in the middle of the drawer. See them now?
Where Are the Batteries?
Recently, my daughter asked this question as she was looking in the aforementioned drawer. We told her, “They’re right there!”
“In the drawer!”
“They’re not there. I don’t see them.”
One of us got up and went to the drawer where we promptly pointed out exactly where the batteries were. “They are right here, baby girl.”
“Oh, I thought they would be in a package.”
And there is the unfortunate summation of a western (part of the world) Christian’s experience with God: looking for Him in a package.
And that is the unfortunate indictment of the religious system: we’ve put God in a package.
Can You See the Batteries?
I know in my own experience with the Lord, I’ve missed Him because He didn’t appear in the package for which I was looking. I’ve nearly missed Him plenty of other times, too. I would have trained my mind to expect to see/experience Him in a certain way, and when that way didn’t manifest, then I would say, “He’s not there. I don’t see Him.”
And He says, “But I am here. You’re looking for the signs of Me, and not Me.”
My daughter was looking for the signs of the batteries, namely the package in which they would come. She didn’t see a package, so she concluded that the batteries weren’t there. But they were. Just not as she expected them.
The Lord would say, “Seek Me. Do not look for signs; look for Me!” How often does He present Himself in ways unexpected to us?
By that same token, we can miss Him when He shows up in a package for which we weren’t looking. For example, a few months after Bridget and I had stepped out of the institutional system, we went to an organic church conference. It was supposed to be something out of the ordinary, something organic, natural. This was supposed to be super-spiritual Christianity. Then they handed us a songbook. A songbook with songs we didn’t know and were supposed to sing a cappella. No thank you. The Lord isn’t with this group, let’s go.
We could’ve missed the Lord right then and there. But someone else encouraged us to stay. So we stayed, and we gave it a chance – gave the Lord a chance. That was the first time the gospel of Jesus Christ became THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST for me. I heard about a God and His desire for a family, a bride, a home, and a body. I met the Lord in a big and new way. And He didn’t show up in the way I expected.
I’ve seen others miss the Lord, or come close to missing the Lord, because they were looking for a pre-packaged Jesus. Then He would show up, unpackaged, and saints wouldn’t see Him. Then I’ve seen other miss the Lord, or come close to missing the Lord, because He showed up in something resembling a package. We know that the system has packages, so the Lord can’t be put into any packages. Well, guess what. We’ve just put the Lord in a package: the “the-Lord-can’t-be-put-into-any-packages” package. So, we miss Him.
The Package Filter
So, does the Lord like tricking us? No. He wants to work our filters and expectations out of us. This is so brilliantly illustrated in the book, The Shack. In it, God the Father presents Himself to the protagonist as a black woman. Not exactly the package one would expect, huh? The Father later explains to the protagonist that He, God, doesn’t fit into our preconceived filters and expectations. (not quoting, but that’s the gist)
For my previous example of the songbook, I had a package filter and expectation that God wouldn’t use such a tool. Such a tool was certainly a package of the system. He then shattered that package filter and expectation. He shattered it again, more recently, and He may very well have to shatter it again later. He will continue to shatter our filters and expectations until they’re gone, worked out of us. He then replaces that bit that once was us with more of Himself. He looks to empty us of us and fill us with Him. So, He appears in ways that tests what we’re looking for: Him or our idea of Him (our package filter).
My daughter had an idea, a package filter, of the batteries already fixed in her mind. She looked in the drawer and couldn’t find them. Nothing fit her package filter. So, for her, they weren’t there. But they were!
With the songbook, I had a package filter, but the Lord showed up inside that filter. Because He was wrapped in that package, I initially couldn’t see Him. He was in my package filter! So, for me, He must not be there. But He was!
Is this making any sense? In one case, we have an expectation, a package filter, in which we expect to see God. In the other case, we have an expectation, a package filter, in which we expect NOT to see God. Both are expectations or filters. Both can cause us to miss the Lord. If my daughter had been looking for the batteries, and not the battery package, she could have seen and found the batteries. If I had been looking for the Lord, and not the package in which He was being presented, then I could have seen and found Him.
Seeing with Help
Now, did you catch the subtle context of both examples – my daughter’s and mine? It took someone else, someone who knew the batteries were there, to point them out and help her find them. It took someone else, someone who knew the Lord was there, to point Him out and help us find Him.
Sometimes, we need help to see past our filters and expectations. Sometimes, it takes someone else, someone who has had their own filters and expectations shattered, someone who knows that He is there, to point Him out and help us find Him. And sometimes, that help may not fit our filters and expectations, either. Then what? We either humble ourselves and allow the Lord to continue the good work He’s begun in us and shatter all of our filters and expectations, or we miss Him completely. He gives us a choice. We can accept help or not. We can choose to see Him or not. We can find the batteries or continue with a dead device.
There is a song we sing, and it may have been in that infamous little songbook. The song is called, “We Love Your Church, Oh Lord”. The whole song is great, but the last verse has been quoted in several meetings of the saints:
We’ll know You as You are,
Not as our minds conceive.
The only limit left for us
Is what we dare believe!
Lord, may we know You as You are, and not as our minds conceive. May we find You despite the package. Amen.