Of Football and God

Okay, let’s REALLY stretch this metaphor…

Yesterday we were at my son’s house watching the Super Bowl. Needless to say, for Seattle fans the game was the kind of cathartic, exhilarating moment that only comes after long years of drought, a word which accurately describes the Seattle sports scene when it comes to major sports championships. At one point I was holding my infant grandson when something terrific (for the Seahawks, of course) happened in the game, and I reacted like any success-starved Seahawk fan would react: I went nuts.

Of course, my shouts of glee totally freaked out my grandson who immediately started crying. Naturally I felt awful, trying to explain to the little guy that Grandpa was happy, not mad, but it was no use. Mommy had to take him away for some calming-down time. After that my son and I did most of our cheering (and fortunately for the Seahawks there was plenty to cheer about) in pantomime. We were highly enthusiastic but relatively silent. Relatively.

Reflecting on the episode today I realized that it would have been no use trying to explain to my infant grandson the finer points of football, and what it was that made Grandpa leap up and holler at the TV set. To my grandson’s ear, I probably sounded angry, agitated, threatening — one minute he was calmly bouncing in Grandpa’s arms, and the next minute this large, loud man is yelling in his ear and stomping around the room! Someday he’ll get it, but not yesterday.

And, I thought, isn’t that just a little bit analogous to the relationship between us and God? Sometimes God moves and we just don’t get it. We don’t understand His actions, His emotions, His perspective. One minute we’re bouncing happily and calmly in God’s arms, and the next minute our world is upset and our tranquility vanishes, and God suddenly seems vindictive or angry. Something is happening that we in our spiritual infancy just don’t get, and no matter how much He might try to explain it, our tears of agitation and fear do not quickly subside.

There’s an old saying that comes in handy at times like that: “When you can’t trace God’s hand, trust His heart.” My grandson is really little and doesn’t know my heart of love for him very well yet — but as adults, we actually do know quite a lot about the heart of God, I think. So next time something God does triggers fear in me, maybe I’ll remember the Super Bowl and calm down. Maybe God isn’t mad at all — He’s just cheering me on!

Fire engines, Rowboats and Helicopters

When God steps in, what does it look like?

It’s an old joke. A man of deep faith is threatened by a deadly flood. As the rising waters are lapping against his front stoop, a fire engine pulls up in front, and the driver calls out, “Sir! Wade over to the truck and we’ll take you to safety!” To which the man replies, “No, thank you. God will save me!” The truck drives off.

Four hours later in the evening darkness the waters have reached the man’s living room. Two rescuers come to the door in a rowboat. “Sir, climb in the boat, and we’ll get you out of here!” Again, the man refuses. “Thank you, but you can go on about your business. God will save me!” The boat drifts away.

Early the next morning the water has risen to the roof top and the man is clinging to the chimney. A helicopter roars overhead and hovers above the man, and a rescue cable slowly drops toward him. Over a loudspeaker the pilot cries out, “Grab hold of the cable and we’ll reel you in!” But the man waves the pilot away. “I’ll be fine,” he cries over the roar of the helicopter. “You can go rescue someone else! God will save me!” The pilot reluctantly flies off, and minutes later the flood waters pull the man free from the chimney and he drowns.

Instantly he finds himself in heaven, face to face with the Lord. “Oh, Lord, how wonderful to be in Your presence!” he cries out. “But, Lord, I thought You were going to save me from the flood waters! Why didn’t You?”

“What are you talking about, my son?” God answers. “I sent you a fire engine, a rowboat and a helicopter. What else did you expect Me to do?”

What is it we’re expecting God to do? What does God’s intervention look like? We probably imagine that, when God steps in, it looks like Hollywood, complete with angelic choirs and special effects. But I suspect that far more often God’s little miracles look like fire engines, rowboats and helicopters. The moral: God’s not bound by our expectations. He’ll show His hand in unexpected ways!