Some nights, particularly when life is a bit heavier than usual, it's easy to lie awake in bed and think, "Lord, if only I had some assurance of your presence. If only I knew that it was you." And like generations of God's people before us, we lie awake praying for some sign, some indication that God is who He says He is.
And then, by some grace, that sign comes. That really cool, completely undeniable, we'd-laugh-if-we-weren't-so-scared-by-it sign that is undoubtedly God responding to our feeble humanity. Our spirit settles, just a bit, and for a few minutes, we rest in knowing that God is good.
And then, we ask Him for another sign.
That was really cool, God. But if it was really You, You could do it again.
I don't know what it is about us. I don't know what it is that makes it so hard for us to believe, even when the evidence is right there. Even when we get the big, ostentatious, clear sign that we've asked for, the very one.
But we're not alone. This need for constant reassurance, this searching for another sign, has been the testimony of God's people from the beginning.
Remember the story of Gideon?
God found Gideon hiding in a winepress, beating wheat. (And that's a good lesson in and of itself, but alas, for another day.) In their first encounter, Gideon asks God simply to wait. To stay there until the man can prepare a good meal for Him, some kind of offering to honor the moment. God waits, then cooks and consumes the offering Himself. But even this is not enough to prove to Gideon that this is the Lord who visits him. When God asks the 'mighty warrior' to do a hard thing - to lead God's people into battle - Gideon asks for a very specific sign:
If this piece of wool, which I place on the floor, is covered with dew in the morning, though the rest of the ground is dry, then I will know that You are God and this is real.
The next morning, there he has it - wet wool, dry ground, firm proof of the Lord's presence. After all, there is no other legitimate way to explain what has happened here. And it is exactly what the chosen man has asked for. The Scriptures say that not only was the wool wet, but it was sopping wet (God always goes above and beyond); Gideon squeezed and entire bowl full of water out of the wool.
And then he turned back to his God and said, That was really cool. But if it was really You.... And he asks for another sign. Not just another sign, but the exact opposite one. If tomorrow morning, the wool is dry and the ground is wet, well, then, I'll know that You really are God.
You have to think God is just shaking His head at this point. You have to wonder if God's questioning whether this was the guy to pick after all, this 'mighty warrior' hiding in a winepress. This guy who has just seen one miracle and yet demands another. This man who has already seen two great acts of the Lord (if you count the consumption by fire of Gideon's first offering) and yet still needs, for whatever reason, a third.
Why is it so hard for us to believe that God is God? Why is it so hard for us to believe that God is good? Why is it so hard for us to believe that God has not only chosen us, but chooses us, and that the imagination that He has for our life is real?
I don't think there's anything wrong with our longing for God to show Himself, with our hope that He will demonstrate His holiness and His goodness and His promise in some tangible way. But what if one night, and one morning, was all it took?
What if one bowl of water was enough?
What kind of people would we be, what kind of amazing things would God be doing in our midst, if we could just say, That was really cool, God. Really cool. I'm going.
No buts. I'm going. No ifs. I'm going. No what-ifs. Let's do this.
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