Metaphors From the Midnight

Late night is good for deep talking. Sleep deprivation, the poor man’s alcohol, breaks down many of the social and personal inhibitions that can make daytime conversations so boring.

Tonight I was talking with my friends Pete and Victoria about faith, knowing God, miracles, and how life is supposed to be. It was a good conversation, full of counterpoints and disagreements to make all of us stretch our thinkers.

Pete said that he wanted to know God, rather than just know about God. When I asked what he meant by that, he said that he felt like he learned all this information about God through the Bible, but never really seemed to know God like he knows his friends.

Sometimes it seems like learning about God only through the Bible is like stalking someone’s Facebook page. You have general information, snippets of history, halves of cryptic conversations, but unless you actually talk with the person, you don’t get to know him or her. It’s a one-way mirror to peer into someone’s life, without making yourself vulnerable.

Then we discussed whether and how God responds to us. Does God talk to us through messages in the clouds, a still small voice, the words of those around us, gut feelings, or something else? Most of the time, we just want a straight answer!

It got me thinking about how you get to know someone romantically. In the time leading up to, and in fact, for a long time after the first date, there are truckloads of miscommunications, crossed wires, and mixed signals. It seems nicer to know where you stand, but you don’t give up on trying to understand each other. Over time, you start to recognize patterns and know what the things you say to each other truly mean. Maybe God is the same way. Perhaps God speaks to us with nuances and meanings that we only discern by paying attention when we listen.

This led to talking about faith healings and other possible miracles in this day and age. Pete and I are both skeptical of most miraculous claims, but I think some of them may be legitimate. Even if there are a thousand false miracles, fueled by drug-like emotions and charismatic preachers, isn’t one real miraculous healing something to be astonished at?

Pete said that he thought people in biblical times were more used to such acts of faith happening. I wonder if that’s true. When we look at the Bible, we can flip through the pages and see hundreds of miracles…but we’re looking at the condensed version. These events took place over thousands of years. And many of these miracles were directly witnessed by only a few people. Large public miracles may have come around only once every fifty years or so, and even then, most people would hear about it only through word of mouth–and word of mouth that was much slower than today’s communication via internet.

We talked about whether our actions are motivated by selfish desires or by righteous impulses given to us by God. I think all of our actions, no matter how good the appearance or outcome, initially come from selfish motivations–like wanting to be loved by other people or by God, wanting to be respected, or wanting other people to do good things for us. Because that’s what children do. Children mimic the behavior of their parents without the motivations their parents have. But I also believe that as we continue to act as we ought, our reasons for acting this way mature. Because we, like children, grow up.

Until then, continue growing, and don’t beat yourself up too much for the missteps.

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