In a generation that no longer keeps God's stories intimately close to the heart, that cannot tell them but instead tells versions of them in which God is not the main character, nor the main emphasis, that has lost the revelation of Him for the knowledge of Him, it's only natural to ask ourselves what happened. Or rather, what's happening.
And the sad truth is that what's happening is that persons today no longer believe God's stories are real. In other words, we talk about what happened, but we don't really think it happened. At least, not like the Bible says that it did.
We have decided there is an exaggeration and a symbolism in everything and that these stories have been crafted in the way that they've been crafted in order to teach us something about God or about ourselves or to stand for something else.
In other words, there might have been a Jonah, but there never was a whale. Not a real one.
Those forty years that Israel supposedly wandered? Not a real forty years; it's just that forty is some kind of perfect holy number representative of "an entire generation" or otherwise meaningful to the story we tell about our God.
Jesus was a wise teacher, and a good man. He died, but we're not sure He really lived, and we're not sure that it even matters. The whole resurrection thing, it's not really important to the point of the story, which is that God wants us to be nice to one another and live as generally decent people.
Paul had a passion for the church because he was interested in social clubs. Look at his leadership! His poise! His authority! He really was an incredible orator, a brilliant apologist, and an influential guy. He didn't need to be blinded by Jesus and healed by the Lord to be any of that; it's just who Paul was.
At every turn, we take out the parts we're not sure of, the things that make us seem "weird" if we actually believe them, and we stick to the basic human facts about what was once a beautifully holy story. And in doing so, we've lost the essence of the whole thing.
It's just so hard to believe the unbelievable. It's so hard to go against what we know of the world. Most, if not all of us, have never seen a worldwide flood. We haven't seen a giant boat with two of every kind of animal on it. (How did Noah catch all the bugs?) We've never seen a whale eat a man and spit him back out. We've never seen the dead rise.
We've never seen the blind see, the deaf hear, or the lame talk, except in the rare cases where our technology has been successful, and even then, it's most often only effective on specific types of these afflictions - a man, say, who has lost his sight due to an illness that we understand or a mute man with a tongue defect that's surgically correctable. We've never seen a swarm of locusts devour an entire nation's harvest, thousands upon thousands of frogs come ashore all in the same place, or a cloud of smoke fill a holy temple (at least, where no candles are burning).
We haven't seen these things, and we can't explain them, so rather than look foolish in the eyes of the world, which is so attached to its science and facts, we just edit them out of the story and determine that they're not important. God...He's still God without all of these things. If not a single one of them happened in the way that the Bible claims, that doesn't change anything about God at all.
It does. It changes God and it changes us. Because no longer is God the God of all Creation, the imaginative and wonderful Maker who can do all things and is doing all things and has revealed Himself through all the things that He's doing. Rather, He's become merely an idea, a concept, a figment of our own imaginations to whom we are willing to give only what our tempered dreams can fathom. He's no longer bigger than us; He's all of a sudden just the right size for our small stories and meager dreams.
And then we, as His people, are nothing more than believers. We are not disciples, not friends, not sons and daughters. How could we be? We cannot be the offspring of an idea, particularly not one that is so thoroughly human-shaped. We worship God. We pray to Him. We live our lives to appease Him. We know about Him and perhaps even trust in that knowledge, but we no longer believe in Him. And how could we? We have not seen Him.
Worst of all, we no longer expect anything of Him. Our God, this wonderful God who has painstakingly revealed Himself to us from the very foundations of the world, is no longer present in our lives. He won't step in, won't comfort or rescue or even love us; He can't. No longer would we expect that He even could, although, ironically, that doesn't keep us from being disappointed that He doesn't. We live double-faced lives, always hoping this God whose miracles we no longer believe in and whose presence we don't find essential or compelling will come to us and work miracles in our lives. And when He doesn't, we're offended.
We have completely edited God out of His own story, and then we wonder why He's not more powerful in ours.
Maybe at our cores, we know there's more to it all than we're willing to hold onto. Maybe we know there has to be more. Maybe we know that it has to be real, that it can't be just a story. Because if it's just a story, He's not a God.
And we are a people who truly need a God.