Startled by God (A Sermon Illustration)


My eight-month-old daughter startles very easily. She'll be creeping across the floor and if I call to her or walk into her line of sight, she jolts in panic before smiling and creeping in my direction. It's a little quirky—I don't remember her older sister doing that—and I always feel bad for startling her like that.

It's even more peculiar, I think, when she startles in her crib in the morning. She wakes up and starts crying for me to come feed her or otherwise rescue her from the confines of her crib. She's wailing and wailing, willing me to come to her aid, but when I enter her room, it's like she's shocked to see me.

"Waaa. Waaaa. Waa—AHH!" She jerks with surprise.

Isn't my presence what she wanted? Didn't she know I would show up to answer her cry?

It makes me think of prayer, of worship, or of our relationship with God in general. We pray fervently, begging God to rescue us in our distress, to show up and reassure us of his realness and his presence. And yet if God does show up in a big way, we're startled. It's like we're crying out, but not really expecting anything to happen.

As my eloquent colleague Shane said this morning while lamenting boring worship services, "if God showed up, most people would poop their pants!"

Maybe they should wear diapers like my daughter.

What if we raised our expectations? What if we prayed and worshiped with the full expectation that God would respond and be present with us? Maybe rather than startling at this unexpected thing, we would simply bask in the joy and appreciation of God's presence.

Hooray! God is here! Just like we knew he would be.

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