I have a few embarrassing Costco stories. Like the time I dropped a large container of fresh blueberries in the parking lot as I was loading the trunk of my car. Hundreds of blueberries scattered on the ground rolling each which way. There was the time I tripped and fell in the parking lot while trying to pry my Costco card out of my wallet. I hit a planter curb as I attempted to step up and over it while avoiding a car backing up only to do a full-face plant in the planter. First thought? Did anyone see that?! Then there was the time I was exiting Costco and my soup (cream of broccoli) slid off the cart and splattered all over the ground right outside the entrance door where everyone was walking in. A helpful employee witnessed the faux pa and went to retrieve me another two containers. I stood back watching people avoid the mess while a few others stepped into the white, lumpy cream then noticing and wondering if they just stepped into barf as they looked at the bottom of their shoes. Not pretty.
Last week I was in Costco and saw that men’s Sketchers shoes were on sale. I needed a new pair of athletic shoes and stood before the large stack of shoe boxes looking for my size—eleven. A very popular size. There were five columns of shoes stacked twenty high and six deep. Where was the only pair of elevens I could eventually find? You guessed it! On the very bottom of the middle column. I just stood there flummoxed as to whether it was worth an attempt to retrieve them.
At that moment I couldn’t help but notice an elderly woman in one of those electric Costco scooters pulling up right behind me and I wondered what she needed. My first thought was that she obviously couldn’t walk well and thus needed the scooter to get around. I commented to her, “Wouldn’t you know that the one pair of shoes I want is on the very bottom!” I contemplated walking away not wanting to wrestle with the large stack and risk the whole stack tumbling down. To my surprise the elderly woman said out loud, “Just grab it!” I replied, “What? Easy for you to say!”
To my surprise she immediately hopped out of her scooter, stepped over to the stack of shoes, bent down and yanked the elevens right out from the bottom column just like it was a Jenga game. Nothing in the stack moved and there now was an empty space where my elevens once resided. She handed me the box and said, “There you go!” I was both stunned and embarrassed. As she climbed back on her scooter and sped off, I wondered if she was possibly an angel come to earth. Is that how God helps us at times?
Do you ever wonder how God helps us in a time of need? Though my Costco story is a bit silly it does illustrate a truth I’ve come to embrace more and more the older I get. God is love and his presence in the world is best experienced by the love we share with one another in tangible ways. It is hard to know how else God truly exists in our presence, wouldn’t you say? How do we experience God outside ourselves beyond a presence that is spiritual within? Not that the external and internal are not related. We are supposed to live by the things unseen rather than the seen. But we see, touch, smell and hear so much in the world around us every day.
No one has ever seen God. Not ever. Well, I guess Jesus is someone who has seen God. Wait, he is God! That’s like God seeing himself, sort of. But not really. He’s one of three. Jesus wasn’t God himself per se. I digress. No one has seen God. Moses came close but not quite. Others in the bible saw angels. But no one has seen God entirely. Does God not want to be seen or is it the case that God can’t be seen by us for some reason. Bottom line: no one has ever seen God. So how do we experience a God that can’t be seen, touched, smelled, or audibly heard?
We can say we’ve heard from God. Many say God speaks to them through the scriptures while very few would say they have ever heard a clear audible voice from God telling them to do or not to do something or to know something. Prophets spoke for God after apparently hearing from him. Surely the Spirit helps us to exercise discernment as we live our lives which are full of decision making each day we live and breathe. Even if we don’t hear God clearly many of us would say we “see God in nature.” There is no arguing that creation is a dang spectacular ongoing witness or evidence that there is a God behind all this. Wouldn’t you agree? Nature speaks to us.
But where is God, really? How does God exist? In what form? Is there even a form we could comprehend? How does God work in and through our time/space limitations? Our Christian faith tells us that God, at least partly, exists in us somehow, spiritually speaking. The imago de, right? We were created in the image of God, and we have God’s spirit mysteriously knitted with our souls. At least we did. Then we didn’t. Then we could. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. Easily understood and recognized by some. Completely unrecognizable or unattainable by others. That’s how it seems to play out among the vast human throng that claims to be “Christian.”
Whether we admit it or not, we Christians spend a great deal of our thought life trying to figure out God, how to best relate to him, do what he wants us to do, be like what he wants us to be like. We have an insatiable appetite for “good sermons” enlightening us as to how to live better Christian lives or to at least gain more knowledge and understanding in our quest to know God better. Some sermons deliver on that but sadly, too many sermons throughout time are simply reminders that we are living lives that fall short of God’s expectations for us. According to how most preachers choose to relate God’s Word to their flock, the flock always has far to go and doesn’t quite measure up to “God’s plan for your life.” Most Christians spend a lifetime trying to figure out God’s exact plan for the lives.
Far too rare are the messages that simply remind us of the mystery and usher us to a place of wonder, awe, and humility. Messages that are not afraid to impart a thought-provoking question mark rather than an always falling short reminder. Teachers aren’t comfortable leaving their hearers on their own to live the nuance of the mysterious. I think there is much more awe living in the mystery rather than having all the answers. To be sure there are some answers to learn. But somehow in the mystery God reaches across space and time to touch our souls to remind us that he exists...somehow, some way, somewhere. I’m OK with that. Maybe God tangibly touches our lives through little old ladies in electric carts pulling up to lend us some help.