A young man named Josh sat on a park bench with his frazzled head in his hands. “If only I could see God right now. Then I’d believe in Him.”
A gentle voice responded. “I can do that for you.” The flustered man sat up. An old lady had taken a seat next to him. “I have good connections. If you want to see God, just let me know how.”
Josh laughed at first, but noticed the woman was serious. “Heck, I’ll give it a try.” He thought for a moment. “Lightning. I want to see a good lightning show, in my backyard, tonight.”
“Very well. Consider it done.”
Josh was still laughing later that evening as he eased in his recliner; still, he couldn’t help but pause and check out the back window. “Yeah, right,” he told himself after an hour. Just as Josh was about to fall asleep right there, he heard a rumble and jerked his head around. His back yard was pitch-black. CRACK! He ran to swing open the back door. CRACK! BANG! BOOM! For a good half hour, lightning danced in earth-shattering power. Josh’s jaws hung open for most the show. For the next half hour, he called everyone he knew, friends, family, neighbors, waking everyone he knew in the middle of the night just to tell them what he’d seen. “I must say, I do believe in a God,” he added. Very tired, Josh went to sleep and dreamed that lightning resumed its show for the rest of the night.
The next morning, Josh turned on the news as usual. There was quite the story. “Dan Smith reporting here from Europe. What started in Ohio has spread across the globe in a matter of hours. Lightning has covered the world. Some people think it’s because they’re asking God to put on a lightning show – This is obviously an unfounded claim. Meteorologist Steve has determined that there is a new weather phenomenon, called global lightning chains, where all lightning storms join into one global network. Steve can see the friction in the clouds, the electricity in the lightning, but he can’t see God. Psychiatrists believe that a coincidence happened in Ohio where one man linked lightning to God. After that, everyone coincidentally linked these lightning storms to God. It’s now been scientifically proven; whether you pray to God or not, there is 99% chance you’ll see lightning within two hours.” Just as Dan said this, lightning struck in Josh’s back yard.
Back at the park, Josh sat on the same bench with his head in his hands. A voice next to him inquired, “So what happened, my friend?”
Josh wouldn’t sit up this time. “I don’t understand. Lightning should have proved God’s existence, but now there’s lightning all the time. Lightning is a natural, normal, common event now. Noone thinks it has anything to do with God.”
“You couldn’t help but tell all your friends, could you? I’ll tell you what happened next. Your friends, thinking it only fair that God should answer their same prayer, demanded He put on a lightning show for each one of them. As God complied, the news spread to their friends, relatives, and neighbors. It didn’t take long for lightning to cover the world.”
“I thought I dreamt it went on all night.”
“Those rocket scientists on the news don’t see our hearts speaking to God. All they can see is the movement of water droplets and the movement of people’s mouths.”
“I bet if they saw God’s face sharp across the sky, they’d have to believe.”
“Tomorrow they will.”
“Really? You can really do that?”
Sure enough, the next day, God’s face was on the news. “I guess we have to believe in God now.” Josh jumped and clapped his hands for joy. “Thank you, God. That should shut them up for a long time.”
Josh went about town, whistling and proudly wearing a new cross necklace. The evening news would change his tune. “Dan reporting…” The somber anchorman could not seem to face the screen in the background. From a war-zone, a reporter spoke in between bombings. “It all started when one ethnic group said … God looked more like… them. The other group claimed… they saw God’s lips say… ‘No, they don’t.’ This is Amber… coming to you from Cuba.” Then another reporter came on. “What you’re seeing in this Japanese sky is another god. Some believe a new kind of hologram has been developed, a 3D hologram that puts a giant face in the sky. If this were true, it would cast doubt on the other famous ‘face of God.’”
The next day found Josh back on the park bench. He looked like the Thinker statue. “Why doesn’t it work? You’d think God showing his face would solve everything. Instead, epic fail, global backfire. Maybe I just need a god that makes me happy. Who cares what anyone else thinks?”
“Here you go. Rub it and make as many wishes as you’d like.” She placed an ancient oil lamp into his hands.
The next day, Josh came back, frustrated as ever. “You told me to rub this lamp and make wishes. Nothing happened. Nothing at all. I’m beginning to really doubt this God thing.”
The old lady seemed to be holding back a burst of laughter. “Are you looking for a God, or are you looking for a genie? Anyone with that much power isn’t going to serve at your beck and call. I knew the lamp wouldn’t work when I gave it to you. God is real, but genies are a myth.” A dog sniffed Josh’s hand, startling him for a moment. The old lady had brought a stray dog with her. “I brought something else today.”
“And two choices. Two choices for our buddy Rusty here.” She handed Josh a paper bag with two items inside. One was a hunk of steak, the other a paper-back book. Josh held out an item in each hand, and Rusty didn’t take a whole second to decide on steak. The woman smiled. “As far as Rusty is concerned, you’re his God. He can see you, and you give him good things. Rusty has used the highly scientific tool of direct observation.”
“Oh, I get it. I’m just like a dog, because I want to see my Master and get my wishes granted.”
“No. God wouldn’t treat you like that. Yes, Rusty has a good sense of sight, a better sense of hearing, and a fantastic sense of smell. You, on the other hand, have been given other heightened senses. Your senses of conscience and rationality have been designed so that you can perceive God. And somehow I feel that you’re looking to God for more than a steak for satisfaction.” She nodded toward the book.
Josh held up the book. “The Case for Faith. We’ll just have to see how good this is. That steak didn’t look all too bad.” He shared a smile with her.
For a month, Josh didn’t return to the park. Five weeks after receiving the book, Josh came back with a woman and two small children. The old lady sat contentedly with Rusty. Josh got her attention. “Ahem. I never got your name.”
“Just call me Florence.”
“Well, Florence, I’d like you to meet my wife, Kate, and my children Ethan and Emma. Family, this is Florence. This wonderful woman helped me see God. I thought I would find him in the bright flash of lightning, or smiling across the sky, or in magical wishes. Come to find out, God did reveal Himself in human history, but it was the way He wanted to reveal Himself – when and how He wanted. The people who saw Him back then found their own crazy reasons to reject Him. So then I used my heart, mind and soul. I discovered the greatest power ever known to me, my own will-power. It was selfish but strong, inward but unchanging. If my own will could be changed, if God is indeed more powerful than that, it would be proof to me that a higher power exists. When I gave my life to Christ, I saw generosity replace selfishness. Joy replaced depression. Hope replaced fear and doubt. Passions, choices, and old habits changed. I saw God do the impossible.”
As old Florence spoke, you could hear the years of experience in her voice. “God is more concerned you know who He is than you know that He is. You find Him by developing a relationship and understanding His character. You, Josh, saw God in a way that can never be erased by anyone else. Of course, God is infinite. You’ve only seen the tip of the nose on his face, so to speak.”
“And, thanks to God’s changing power, I got back what I really wanted deep inside. The wholeness of getting my family back, and this time I really care about them more than myself. Thank you so much, Florence.”
“Oh, no problem. I’m just passing along the vision of God.”
This story is mostly hypothetical – a thought experiment. The moral of the story is found by comparing two Gods: a “seen” God who consequently bends to our will, and an “unseen” God who is more powerful than even our will.