There have been times I’ve felt abandoned by God. Sometimes I think it’s just him dissing me and other times I think maybe it’s a “for-my-own-good” kind of thing. But as a friend pointed out at lunch today, it’s an odd way to think about God. You wouldn’t do that to your own kid—leave them so they learn to love you more. Good point. And then another friend commented, “That’s the one thing God does promise—his presence.” I have been thinking about that a lot. On some deep level I know it is true, but I definitely don’t understand it.
The very essence of Christmas—Immanuel, God with us—announces God’s presence with humanity. But do I know how to recognize God? If he never abandons me but it feels like he has, it must be that I don’t know how to see him, or I’m looking for the wrong thing. Maybe we don’t see God himself, but we see him through his provisions, like manna in the wilderness. Do we know God has not abandoned us because we have enough to eat, because we have friends, because we have _______ (fill in the blank)? Then what about people who are literally dying from hunger or loneliness or lack of some other thing? Where do those people find evidence of God’s presence? I think any one of them would smack me upside the head for implying it is their fault that they don’t see God or feel his presence or get full from the invisible spiritual manna all around their feet. And rightly so.
Just as I need to be dis-illusioned of the Christ that I am expecting, so I need to be dis-illusioned of the manna I am expecting. I have these things set in my mind: this is what it looks like when God is near, and this is what it looks like when he feeds his people. But I am drowning in wrong ideas about God, and there are so many things I totally miss because I don’t know what I’m looking for. In spite of all this, God comes, holds out his hands to me again, and says, “This is my body, broken for you.” And when I even come close to the edges of knowing what that means, it is no problem for me to believe that there is bread enough for us all and that the one who offers it will help us see him when he comes.