A single sentence can change your life.
Some of the biggest turning points in my life, the most eye-opening, life-changing events, were single sentences, unplanned, spoken or written without much thought by people who had no idea they were having such an effect on me.
Such an exchange happened several weeks ago on Facebook. I wrote this status:
“Alright 2017. You’ve only got 2 months left. Let’s make ‘em good.”
I received a few comments, but one, in particular, gnawed at me:
“Probably what 2017 is saying to you.”
I must mention, the friend who wrote this tends to be quite snarky and good at pushing people’s buttons. But this comment really got under my skin.
I couldn’t argue with it. I had absolutely no response. It stuck with me. Like a tick, or dull toothache.
A couple of Sundays later, just as I had started to forget my snarky friend’s comment, I had the opportunity to see Peter Rollins (Google him. Now.) speak at a local church. I can’t begin to explain everything that he spoke about—suffice it to say my mind was overwhelmed—but the thing that struck my heart was this: deus ex machina.
Literally, this means god from the machine, but has come to be be understood as a rather cheap plot device used in stories and plays whereby a happy ending is miraculously reached. It is a divine intervention, an act of magic that saves the day and turns the hopeless, impossible situation into the protagonist’s ideal. (Think Hallmark movies.)
I left the church deep in thought. My snarky friend’s comment came back to me, and the crumbling of old thought patterns began.
The past several weeks (if not months) have been difficult. My family’s future is uncertain, resting in the hands of powerful, silent men…in the hands of a powerful, silent god. Money has dwindled. Certain ideals are on shaky ground. What are we to do? I pray for direction daily, but there is no clarity, no definite way made clear.
How often have I prayed, recently and throughout the course of my life, for a deus ex machina, a divine intervention, a magic trick, to change my circumstances into my ideal?
The problem with deus ex machina is that it requires no change in the heart of the character that it saves. The salvation is only external. But this is what we as humans want—the easy way out, no pain, no suffering, no refinement of character, because that hurts and it’s hard. So we pray for divine intervention. We pray for the refugees, the poor, the persecuted, our jobs, our relationships, to magically turn around, and when God refuses to be our miracle-producing machine, we turn on him.
But he is Emmanuel, God with us, not a cheap plot device, not god from the machine.
In this time of uncertainty, of seeming silence, I have to recognize that the Voice has not at all been silent, even if he doesn’t tell me what I want to hear from a golden cloud of glory. He is here, always, beside and within, pointing my eyes to the present, suggesting love and patience when both of those are a fight in themselves. He is here, illuminating the holy meaning in small things. He is here, saving me so that I might save myself. He is here, God with us. God with me.