Underwhelmed by God, Overwhelmed by Culture


Do you ever find yourself reading the bible and thinking about how strange and weird it would have been to witness Noah building the ark, or watching Moses part the Dead Sea? Or what about witnessing Lazarus rise from the dead? Then there’s the big one: the day that Jesus was crucified. Would I have understood who he was? Or would I have written him off to be just another nut-job on the street who, while he probably didn’t deserve the beating, badgering and death, at the very least didn’t deserve all that attention.

I get thinking about this sometimes and I can honestly say I’m not sure I’d believe it with my own eyes. Or maybe I would. But if I’m REALLY honest with myself, I think I might doubt everything I was seeing. So it makes me wonder, were people in bible times more accustomed to miracles than today? I’m not quite sure how to answer that, but a few thoughts do come to mind.

I take myself out of pretending I was alive in bible times and focus on the world around me today. Since I wasn’t actually alive back then it’s unfair to say I would be one way or another, so I’ll put it in context of today and I invite you to imagine this with me.

Let’s pretend we woke up tomorrow and the ground was covered in bread. Well, for starters I would probably think about the mess it left and how was I going to clean it all up, then I would reach for my cereal bowl (since I’ve already decided the bread is obviously unsanitary -fill in a varying assortment of reasons why and insert here- and definitely not fit to eat) and have my regular breakfast. Oh sure, I’d talk about the bread, I’d wonder what it was and who put it there, was it spiked with some new drug that will infect the world etc., but within a few days I’d be back to my regular conversation of how’s the weather.

Here’s another one just to give you a different situation. Imagine you’re driving to a friend’s house, but you can’t quite remember how to get there. Your cellphone is dead and you’re feeling frustrated because not only can you not call your friend, but you can’t use the GPS on your phone to locate where you are. All of a sudden a pillar of cloud shows up in the sky right in front of you that appears to be moving with your car. Do you think “of course there’s an angry little cloud JUST over me- how typical”, and keep moving on? Or do you think “global warming sure is doing strange things in the world”. Or perhaps you have no thoughts of the cloud because you failed to even notice since you were too frustrated over the whole situation. At the very least you probably would not notice that the giant pillar of clouds is God attempting to show you the way to your friend’s house.

Get my point? Some things may be head scratchers and draw our attention, but they seem so temporary in everyday lives, rather underwhelming if you will. As I sit and ponder all this and wonder what I would do or think I come to this conclusion: I am inclined to be underwhelmed by God, and more inclined to be overwhelmed by culture.

When I think of Moses leading his people on foot, I think, “who travels that way now?”. We have airplanes, fast cars, large ships, even giant balloons that float with baskets to transport people.

We have grocery stores full of food we need, and don’t need but will buy anyway. We can chat to someone on the other side of the world from the comforts of our computer and couch. We have medications that cure, fix and heal many ailments. Our homes and buildings have good structures, and are built by highly skilled engineers that craft structures to endure almost any type of scenario. We are constantly being told of terrorists, global warming, and new threats like biochemical warfare. And everyone seems to be one conspiracy theory away from solving the world’s secrets.

It’s truly overwhelming! With all that to think about, would a backyard of bread truly throw off your day? Is there anything left to surprise us with?

I feel like we see “awesomeness” in every direction we look. Things that were unthinkable to only two generations before us we have become accustomed to. It’s a strange place to be. To have become accustomed to “awesome” appears to set a bar that’s ultimately too high for God to compete with long enough to grab our attention. But that last statement is exactly where it all becomes clear to me.

We seem to want God to be bigger, better, “awesomer” in our lives. We crave the dramatics of our world and expect He will be in the theatrics of life somewhere putting on a show. But, how quickly we have forgotten his amazing power and authority over everything! How quickly we have forgotten his gentle character. Yes, he is a jealous God and wants you more than anything you place value on in your life. BUT, he is not a God of competitive nature and he is not competing for our attention within the drama. He wants us to turn off the drama, he wants us to stop our swirling minds and remember He’s in charge of it all. Something seemingly simple in an otherwise unsimplified culture.

As I write this my children are outside playing in the mountains of snow in our backyard. I watch the way they play and notice how simple they make it. I think about the wonder behind a child’s eyes. How they can stop and analyze a single snowflake on their mitt and understand the beauty and complexity in a single fractal. By comparison my husband is out there furiously shovelling to remove the snow from our sidewalk, only to turn around and find it has snowed another 5 inches since he started. How often I, like my husband, have missed the beauty and simplicity that God is showing me and have got too caught up in the drama of the snowstorm around me (and I’m speaking metaphorically here in case you missed it). If only I took the time to analyze a snowflake like my kids and notice the complexity of it’s design and give credit to the Designer, then I might be more inclined to feel overwhelmed by who that great Designer is (which is as it should be).

Matthew 18:3 tells us unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The overwhelming dramatic and sometimes even theatrical culture we live in can be such an incredible distraction from our relationship with Christ. We were never suppose to put him in a place where he needed to compete with our world to get our attention. When we make him compete, we can miss everything about how magnificent he is and the everyday miracles that are right in from of us and risk downplaying the awe that he deserves.

As we head in to the holiday season, full of glitter, sparkle and all things over-dramatic, I encourage you to take a quiet moment every day to appreciate the simple. Step back from the drama, the hype in the news, the ebola, the terrorists, the conspiracies, and whatever other overwhelming thing consumes your heart these days and allow God to show you his wonder, power, beauty, and shelter. I pray that at you do you begin to see His extraordinary in the everyday ordinary.



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3 Responses to Underwhelmed by God, Overwhelmed by Culture

  1. dbp49 says:

    I look for God every day in the world all around me, and it is something I have to do as I am surrounded by an entire family of atheists and assorted unbelievers. I find Him every day and rejoice in His presence, and though I am happy for this, it still saddens me that my brothers and sisters completely refuse to see it at all. But I keep trying.

    • 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

      9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9


    • Hi dbp49 and welcome to the blog. Two writers means two responses, so here comes another for you. Good for you for being firmly planted with your Father! How important it is to seek him out daily and to keep our roots close to his Living Water. While it must seem hopeless to see people you love so much be so lost I encourage you to never lose hope and never cease prayer for them. I pray that your family and friends see something different in you that draws them in to ask genuine questions about your faith. I pray that you would have opportunities to share in simple acts of love towards them that would peel away scales on their hearts one scale at a time. I hope you continue to crave your relationship with God and see His extraordinary magnificence in the ordinary life around you. God bless.

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