You and I—we see the same world. The ants on the sidewalk, the trees swaying in the wind, the people walking through the morning, the light and the shadow, the dust and the dawn. We’re walking through time as if it were a curtain we keep pushing back, finding more and more of the same.
But you and I—we see different worlds. We perceive the same phenomena, but we probably don’t interpret it in the same way. And that has everything to do with everything. The ants on the sidewalk point to God’s unending labor. The trees in the wind have a trinitarian aura. The people on their walks promenade through products of God’s speech, just as God himself did in an ancient garden (Gen. 3:8) and a hostile Mediterranean world (John 1:14). The light is not mere photons; it’s also faithfulness. The dust is not drab; it’s divinely governed. And the dawn is not an effect of earth’s rotation; it’s the effect of God’s recurring speech. The curtain that I keep pushing back each day reveals more and more of the God who is here.
The point is this: life is not so much what you experience as it is how you interpret it. Interpretation is key. Now, what does that mean for us in terms of our experience with God? It means presence.
Let me offer one extended example. My family took a left out of the wooded driveway at a lake house in Northern Pennsylvania. As we walked, the kids stopped to throw stones in bog puddles. The blue sky wafted thin clouds toward us that morphed in the wind, a pure smoke in the atmosphere. And amidst the scudding clouds, the sun burned brightly on our backs. I felt the warmth coming through my t-shirt. I knew that the warmth was the sun. But I also knew that the speech of God is what established the sun and what upholds the laws that govern light and time (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 1:3; John 1:1; Col. 1:17). God has always been faithful to his speech. He’s always been faith to himself (2 Tim. 2:13), and God is his speech, for his speech is the Son (John 1:1), ever uttered in the potency of the Spirit. So, what was behind the warmth on my back that morning was the faithfulness of God. In fact, I might as well say that the faithfulness of God was warming my back. The light of the sun was nothing but the effect of God’s speech. In feeling the light, I was feeling the effects of a divine person, or, better yet, three persons.
But this whole interpretation endeavor takes a lot of work. Is it really necessary? Why go through the trouble of working to see the world this way? Why take a commonplace experience and whittle it down to its theological base? Because what you get from that process is a greater awareness of the presence of God. And that’s what you and I want most. We want the presence of God. We crave it. We consume it. We worship God for it. We can never get enough!
That, in short, is why I wrote Finding God in the Ordinary. In fact, that’s why I’m continuing to write about it. That’s why I’ll always write about it. I will not give up the conquest of daily interpretation, of God-watching. I will not settle for less than the presence of God. Will you?
Pierce Taylor Hibbs (MAR, ThM) serves as the Associate Director of the Theological English Department at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of Finding God in the Ordinary, as well as Theological English; The Trinity, Language, and Human Behavior; and The Speaking Trinity. He writes regularly at piercetaylorhibbs.com.
For more information, please check out this short promo video for God in the Ordinary here.