Monday, September 17

Red Fox: A Lesson in Awareness

Becoming more conscious of God is not so much about seeking a mystical, out of this world or end of life's road kind of religious experience, but rather developing a deeper awareness and appreciation of how our everyday experiences abound in the mystery and presence of God. The ordinary events of our experience should not be in the way or apart from the way to living in the presence of God, but the way to it. (Jean Stairs, Listening for the Soul, emphasis mine)

When my daughter was around three years old, we were backing out of a parking lot when she said, "Look Daddy, a fox!" I turned to see where this fox was, but I only saw traffic and buildings. We drove off and I chalked it up to a young girl's imagination.  But it happened again and again and finally one day I saw it! On the sign for the "Red Fox Supermarket" was the picture of...what else? A red fox. It had been there all along and I had never seen it.

Have you had that experience where you're suddenly aware of something that had been present all along? Sadly this happens all to often with our awareness of God's presence.

Read: Genesis 28:10-17
10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you like I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD was in this place and I did not know it." 17 And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Jacob was fleeing from his brother. He was going to a place he'd never been and a people he didn't know. He was emotionally and physically spent. He was alone. 

Or was he? Like that red fox that had been on the sign I passed for years, though I never noticed, God is always around us. Through a dream, God made Jacob aware of his presence. He gave Jacob a glimpse of something in the spiritual realm he could not see with human eyes. And he made a promise that he would be with him as he had been with his father and grandfather. When he awoke, Jacob was aware of God's presence in a way he hadn't been before. 

There is a lot going on in these verses, but I want us to think for a moment about our awareness of God's presence. Have you ever had that "a-ha" moment when you suddenly realize God is there? Do you ever look back at difficult times in your life and realize now that God was right in the middle of it?

What would your life look like if you were more aware of God's presence all the time? Too often we think we can only experience God at a retreat or in a church service. We think of him as somehow separate from everyday life. But Stairs is right, the mundane experiences of life should not keep us from experiencing God...they should be the doorways that enable us to experience God! God has extraordinary plans for our ordinary days! He is with us all the time!

Think of some people in Scripture who were aware of God's presence. They were usually doing normal things when they encountered God. Jacob was fleeing for his safety when he became aware of God. Moses was looking for a lost sheep when he saw the burning bush (but it wasn't until he turned off the path and gave it his attention that God spoke). Paul told the Athenians that the God they called "Unknown" was the one in whom they lived and moved and had their being all the time (Acts 17:22-28).

How does it make you feel to think God is all around you - even when you weren't aware?

Find a quiet place where you can reflect on your week without distractions or interruptions. Take two or three deep breaths to quiet your soul. Invite God to direct your time.

Was there a time this week when you were aware of God's presence with you?

Are there special places, things, or practices that help move you into greater awareness of God?

Can you think of ways to be more mindful, more awake to God all around you?

Ask God to help you live in a state of expectancy and awareness. Help him to see the God who is surely there - whether you know it or not!

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