"Now there was a great wind…, but God was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but God was not in the fire..." - 1 Kings 19:11-12
I love hearing about where people find God in their lives, where God touched them, called them, illumined them, guided them. If the spiritual life is about anything, it's about paying attention to this active presence of God. And when you're paying attention, it's amazing just how many places God is—the market, the sunrise, the stranger on the bus.
But it's equally important to pay attention to where God is not. There are such places. God was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. As Thomas Banks observes, not every parking space that unexpectedly opens up when you're late for an interview is God telling you to take the job. The stranger bothering you on the bus could be an angel, or maybe she's just a bother. Getting fired could be God opening a door, or maybe it just stinks.
God isn't always present, infusing things with significance. Seeing God everywhere is just as idolatrous as not seeing God anywhere. To be fully human is to accept that life is a mix of things charged with purpose and things that are random; things that are pathways to God, and things that are simply distractions. A mature spirituality embraces not only the mystery of fullness, but also the mystery of empty wind and fire. Some things just are, and that's okay.
Holy God, keep us from expecting you to show up all the time to make everything meaningful. Some things just are. Let that be okay.
Mary Luti is Interim Senior Pastor, Wellesley Village Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts.