“What’s it mean? What’s it leading to? You know, if you’d told me twenty years ago I’d see children walking the streets of our Texas towns with green hair and bones in their noses, I just flat out wouldn’t of believed you.”
“Signs and wonders.”
– No Country for Old Men
How do we know when the things happening around us have spiritual significance? To what degree can we attribute to God the things that take place in our world? Our individual views on this are probably quite diverse.
I mean, suppose Jesus literally did appear in the clouds today, with the heavenly hosts, and every eye on earth saw him. There would, I presume, be fairly wide-spread consensus that God was doing something, just as millions of us affirm the veracity of past acts of God recorded in the historic Christian creeds: God’s creation of heaven and earth; Jesus’ birth, life, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension; the giving of the Holy Spirit, etc.
But (to take a random example) what if the blue-tack holding up your poster of Marilyn Manson suddenly is not up to the job and the image comes falling off the wall, lands on a burning candle and goes up in flames? Is there any spiritual meaning in that? Is God at work? Is he telling you something? I know people who would answer “yes” to that question without any hesitation.
So it seems Christians have something of a continuum for recognizing divine activity. On the one end there are those who only readily accept the cosmic-type events that are broadly agreed as evidence of God at work; at the other extreme are those who accept all kinds of occurrences that are purely individual and isolated, and subject to personal interpretation. These people may see evidence of God’s interaction with them many times every day.
I know I have moved back and forth along this God-at-Work continuum at various stages in life, though I have generally avoided making my camp in either extreme. There have been periods where I have more easily believed God was speaking to me and guiding me in even obscure details of life, in each new day. Times when I thought I discerned his purposes in every whim, hunch and dream. And there have been other times when I cringe at the use of any language of a personal “God said” or “God is showing me”; it seems then to be so arrogant and presumptuous, and – at times – dangerous. In these phases it’s best to just get on with life as well as I know how, love my neighbor, and try not to presume I understand much about the connections between God and the world I live in.
In the end, I believe he’s there, and I believe he is still at work in our world. But exactly how, where, and when, and how much I’m personally involved, I’m sure I won’t know for awhile yet.