When Leah volunteered to take over the blog during the month of June, I was thrilled. Not just because it gave me a much needed break, but because I love it when Leah writes. Her posts are windows that let us see exactly where her thoughts reside at the moment she started writing. If you follow the blog, hopefully her words have inspired as much conversation in your house as it has in ours. And, just in case I haven’t said it out loud enough, Leah, thank you. Not every wife would volunteer to take over her husband’s unprofitable hobby so he could take the time he needs to continue participating in said hobby at his fullest capacity. You’re kind (all the kinds!) of amazing.
Now that the mushy stuff is out of the way, I would like to share with you the most significant thought I had during my time away. It seems fitting that it was actually Leah that led me to it.
A few weeks ago, Leah came home with a book called “Wreck This Journal” by Keri Smith. It’s a book that strongly encourages you annihilate it through increasingly extreme and bizarre ways. Leah was all too happy to unleash herself upon the book, decimating it as per the instructions and then finding new and exciting ways of taking the destruction further. When I asked her about it, she told me that she found the experience to be strangely liberating. She felt like it allowed her to escape her inner editor, a process I’m familiar with, myself.
So it came to pass that we were at the book store, and Leah showed me the section in which her book had come from. It turns out Keri Smith has made a cottage industry of creating wacky “interactive” books. If we’re going to be completely honest, these kind of books aren’t usually my jam. Books that encourage you to be creative in specific ways usually feel really shallow and cheesy to me. It’s rare for me to go more than a few pages without rolling my eyes.
But Leah really enjoyed “Wreck This Journal”, and she’s not cheesy at all! In fact, she’s awesome. So, on her recommendation, I scanned through the collection of titles. I wasn’t expecting much. I wasn’t expecting anything, actually. And so when one struck me, I was caught off guard. The book was called “How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum“. The premise of the book is that in order to truly explore the world around us, we have to examine what’s in front of us more closely. I couldn’t explain why, exactly, but something about that idea immediately grabbed a hold of me and held tight.
I bought the book, but I was wary of it. I flipped through it a few times, but never intentionally sat down with it. I’ve purchased artsy-writey books in the past, and while they start out kind of neat and novel, eventually, you realize that you’re smarter than the author and it’s totally a bummer. I didn’t want that to happen with this book. I couldn’t explain it, but I felt like there was something for me hiding within the pages and I didn’t want to miss it. I was afraid if I began reading it at face value, I would get turned off to it before I ever discovered what it was that compelled me to buy it in the first place. A month later, I think I’ve figured it out.
I recently started working in a factory. Because it’s a factory, it’s loud and noisy and we’re required to wear earplugs. My first day, I thought I would never get used to them. They were uncomfortable and in the way. How did anyone get any work done? All I could think about was how annoying they were. And then someone called my name, started showing me how the press worked, and before I knew it, it was time for lunch. About half-way through lunch, I realized I still had my earplugs in. I had forgotten they were there.
What if God is like a pair of earplugs? What if God is always there, filling in the gaps, doing his job, but we’re too used to it to notice? Or, as “How to Be an Explorer of the World” suggests, what if we fail to see because we fail to look? That was the lesson that was hiding in my book.
What if I’m missing God because I’m not actually looking for him? From the moment I wake, to the moment I go to sleep, I’m surrounded by noise and distractions. I live each day of my life, waiting for God to drop in with a burst of light and a puff of smoke. Because God loves me, sometimes he’s willing to do just that. But those occasions are few and far between. So I go through each day, never taking the time to stop and listen. Never taking the time to look. And then I get frustrated when I don’t see God. When I can’t hear him.
The very first “explorations” in the book revolve around noticing things around you. The book asks you to wake up. Pay attention. And so for the past week or two, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Just… notice things. Because God exists in those things. And he’s trying to speak to us through them. At work I’ve noticed that when the printing press has problems, scraps of paper build up at certain places. When you see those scraps, it means someone had a difficult shift and you should keep that in mind. Since the accident, when I pull up at an intersection, my heart rate increases because I don’t know if I can trust the lights. And when I’m at book stores, sometimes I notice books that make me think more about God.
Look around you this week. open your eyes, and I promise you’ll see God in places you wouldn’t ever have expected.
Paul Allen is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah and two cats, Ego and Karma. HfG on FB