I’ve spent all day at a conference about God and ministry and faith. My eyes droop and my head, like an ocean, teems. Good conferences do that to eyes and heads.
Now it’s almost one in the morning and I’m thinking about (surprise, surprise) seeing God. Because I saw Him—in one perfect, piercing poem, in taut and messy truths told bold—but also because of something I noticed about the people on stage today.
Every single one of them—worship leaders, speakers, adoption advocates, non-profit directors—every one was a God scout. Over and over they pointed to the presence of God, often in the places we’d never think to look.
If you doubt, I have proof: On one page of my conference program, I kept a running list of their God-sightings—not mine but theirs—these people who love God and look for Him in..
- the frozen food aisle at Walmart
- a wise and faithful father’s affirmation
- hip hop at the club with a good D.J.
- a well-played fiddle
- death, “a cold, blind-folded kiss”
- a scuba dive master
- a hurricane
- Mastectomy scars
- a potter’s wheel
- stamped keys and woven hats
- street corner preaching under one lone light
And the list goes on, every one of these men and women pointing; their sightings arrows, “Look! God is here! Look! Look! Look!”
I learn from their sightings. I see God where they saw God. And that’s valuable and beautiful and worth the ticket price.
But that’s not all.
If all I leave this conference with are other people’s stories, I’ve missed the point.
When Amena Brown says “We find God in the turntables” she wants you to consider the turntables, but more than that, she wants you to ask, “What are my turntables?”
Stories aren’t meant to be co-opted. They’re meant to inspire. They’re meant to spawn more stories. When we hear a friend or mentor say, “Look!” we should look; we should look where they’ve pointed, and then we should look some more.
I listen to Andy Stanley talk about his dad and the God in that man and I look, but not just at a picture from someone else’s album of God experiences. I look out beyond that album into my own wild life where the Spirit of God prowls, waiting for me to find Him, claim Him, and celebrate Him.
Conference buzz wears off, out, and in a month I may not remember the tweets I wrote today or the notes I took—those “look and see” arrows pointing out presence.
But I may remember the passion that filled up and flowed out of Louie Giglio while he talked about God and elevators, and in remembering his joy, I’ll set out to find that same thing for myself somewhere.
Because I can’t just find God in second-hand stories. I need to let those stories lead me into a first-person encounter.