Remember those optical illusion posters at the mall? You know, the ones that supposedly had hidden images in them. At first glance, you would assume you were looking at a swatch of really bad wallpaper, the kind your Grandma has in her hallway. But if you stared long enough, and stood at the perfect distance, all the magical hidden things would reveal themselves. Things like dolphins and butterflies and sunsets. People were obsessed with these magical hidden images. For a period of a few months in the late 90’s, walking through the mall became fun again for adults. The mall was like a party for old people who loved to stare at magical wallpaper. And to top things off, the food court was just around the corner.

But the mall in the late 90’s wasn’t a party for me. Sure, I loved the versatility and overall variety that the food court offered, but it still wasn’t a party. What I mean is, I couldn’t see the magical hidden images. When I looked at the posters, all I saw was the wallpaper that my Grandma had in her hallway. On one occasion, I may have seen the tip of the fin of a dolphin, I’m still not sure. It could have just been the sugar high from the Capri Sun. No matter how long I stood there and stared, or how close or far away I tried to stand, I still couldn’t see it. People even tried to help me, just hoping I could catch a glimpse of the magical hidden images. Some said I should let my eyes cross, or just focus on one point of the picture. I listened to their advice, and kept trying. If there were books written on the subject I would have studied them. But all my striving just ended in frustration. I felt like I was missing out, missing out on the magic wall-paper party at the mall. Why was I the only one who couldn’t see? So eventually I resorted to lying about seeing the magic things. I’d say, “Oh yeah, I see the sailboat on the ocean”, and then the person next to me would say, “Dude, it’s a cabin in the woods”. Then I’d drown my sorrows with samples of bourbon chicken on a toothpick.

Have you ever felt like you were missing out on something? Like all the normal people can see stuff that you can’t? I have. And I’m not just talking about those stupid posters. See, I’ve always known about God. I knew verses about Him and listened to people tell me what He was like. I heard things like love, acceptance, forgiveness and grace. I heard that He was capable of changing things, changing people’s lives even. But to be honest, all of this knowledge wasn’t helping me. Deep down, I still felt like I was staring hopelessly into the magic wallpaper at the mall. It was like I was missing out again, like everyone else was having a magic God party at the mall and I was stuck at the food court. Why couldn’t I see? Why wasn’t this God helping me? Where were all the dolphins I was promised?

Relying on my previous experience, I resorted to lying about being able to see. I said things like, “Yeah, I hear God’s voice”, “I can feel His presence in my life”. But I couldn’t. It was still the cabin in the woods and I thought it was a sailboat. But lying to myself made me feel better, somehow. It made me feel like I was at the party at least, and other people knew I was there too. I had convinced myself that I knew God, but in reality I only knew things about God. I still couldn’t see.

Experiencing God is a funny thing. It sounds like something someone in a robe would say, like it’s too holy to be humanly possible. I mean why would the God who created mountains and sunsets want to hang out while I watch ‘Pawn Stars’? Why would He want to be with me all the time? I think my turning point came when I stopped lying to myself, and stopped lying to God about being able to see the magical hidden things. And when I got real honest about who I really was, I realized that I didn’t know God, only the things other people had said about Him. For the first time in my life I was vulnerable before Him, the best possible place to be. And I think that’s all He’s waiting for really, for us to be vulnerable. He’s waiting for the defenses to go down so He can invade. What I’ve discovered is that I always had the ability to see what everyone else was experiencing, I just wasn’t willing. I didn’t really want to know what the picture looked like because things might have to change. But I’m glad things changed. I’m glad He cares enough to pursue us, even when we don’t want to see.

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Categories: I Digress

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