“God comes to you disguised as your life,” says Paula D’Arcy, an author, retreat leader, speaker, playwright, and former psychotherapist.
When I first read this, I was puzzled. I wasn’t sure what she meant. And yet I was intrigued and kept pondering her thought.
In Luke 7, that lonely widow from the tiny village of Nain walked beside the funeral bier carrying her only son. And Jesus showed up. Shockingly, he stopped the procession and raised the dead young man and gave him back to his mother. Ah, in that story I see God showing up disguised as that mother’s life. In her worst moment, God in Jesus arrived.
I grew up with two alcoholic parents. Honestly, I hated this part of my life. In my teen years, I was constantly angry at how they were screwing up my life. And yet, in the crucible of that misery, I worked for a summer on a concrete crew with a pastor who was between churches. Ever so gently, this man helped me open my heart to Jesus. With my struggling parents, I needed help. And God came and walked with me in something I could not change.
Over the years, I realized that the anguish I experienced in my growing up years softened my heart to be with others in their turmoil. First, it was as a local church pastor. More recently, it has been as a hospital chaplain. God has come disguised as my life.
After 30-plus years, my departure from the church that I led was not quite as I had hoped. It wasn’t bad, it was just earlier than I had wanted. A few weeks ago, a good friend from that church joined me for a couple days of skiing here in Colorado. At the church, Jon led a transition team that had helped me realize the time was right for my departure. As we rode chair lifts and paused on the mountain and ate meals, we talked about my departure. He knew I had resisted and was eager to know if I had seen God in that part of my life.
Yes, I assured him. I have loved being a hospital chaplain and have realized that had I left the church on my schedule, I would not have had time to work in the hospital, where daily I come alongside people who are trying to find God in their worst moments. In leaving my pastoral role when I did, I see God coming in the details of my life.
All of us are wounded. All of us face things we do not like and cannot control. Last weekend I was visiting a lovely Jewish patient dealing with terrible hip pain. But the real pain she was experiencing was the loss of her husband three weeks earlier. Marilyn told me how she had prayed repeatedly that God would spare Bill. But he died. Adding to her loss is her doubt that God heard her. She is suffering now and will be for months, even years. But in time she will find God in this unwanted part of her life — God is there already.
When Carl and Stephanie were in a devastating auto accident, they marveled that in the car right behind them was a intensive care nurse who provided immediate treatment that saved their lives. God comes disguised as our lives.
I don’t always like it. Right now in my nearby family I have two active alcoholics. Both are struggling to be humble enough to seek the help they need. After years with my parents, watching two more loved ones sabotage their lives with drink is really painful for me. I don’t want this to be part of my life.
So, I am looking for God now. My belief — my experience — is that God really does come to me disguised as my life. For healing, for the richest life possible, I need to see God in this life that is mine, whatever it brings. I’m looking. And I will see.
By John Casey
John completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2005, is a graduate of our two-year transformational program and is a weekend leader for The Crucible Project. He enjoys writing about authentic living for men. As a senior pastor for 32 years, he has written and preached hundreds of sermons on God’s character and mission, our purpose and mission, spiritual transformation and effective relationships.
Photo Credit: Gustavo Devito via Creative Commons