The night before last I took my daughter and her friend to a punk concert (NOT a “Christian” concert) in Detroit, at The Shelter, and I saw God. The crowd was great, even though I was probably twenty years older than the next oldest person there. Four bands played. They were all fun, and all the guys in the bands seemed to be really generous, sweet people. Best of all, I saw God.
It’s sad to think that a few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to see him. I would have been too caught up in my judgments of the occasional f-bombs that were flying (though not as many as you might think), or the beer that was flowing, or just in my perceptions that “this place is non-Christian,” with its implicit assumption that God does not hang out in “non-Christian” places. Of course for my own sake I hope he does, since there’s no place less Christian sometimes than the depths of my own heart and mind.
I do realize that I may be one of few people there who saw God. Chances are good that many didn’t care, others didn’t think about it either way, and others would have strongly disagreed. But there he was, nonetheless. I saw God in the rapturous joy on my daughter’s face. I heard him and felt him as the crowd sang and swayed with one voice. I saw his energy on stage and felt his love expressed through the appreciation these young men had for us who were there to see them. I sensed him in the spirit of oneness that was there between bands, as pop and 80’s music played, and the crowd all sang along. I wondered if what we really need is less church and more concerts.
I’m only being half-facetious. Of course it’s not just concerts we need. What we need is to be able to recognize God in all the places where he is. According to Christian scripture, even the rocks and trees testify to the glory of God. If God can be seen even in inanimate things, surely he can be seen all the more in his own human creations, in the places where they gather to celebrate what it means to be alive. (Certainly this is what is nearly always going on when people assemble to play or listen to music.) To recognize God in all the places where he is, we must ask ourselves what we believe. If we believe God is everywhere, then it is simply a matter of learning to spot him. How do we learn to spot him?
By finding him first within ourselves, truly, deeply, and unconditionally. If you believe God is only present in you when you are doing good, behaving well, and in certain places, then you will be unable to spot God in others who are not meeting your conditions. On the other hand, once you know God is present in you without condition, no matter how you are behaving or where you are, you will naturally see God outside of you and around you as well. How do you come to know that God is present in you without condition? It is actually quite simple, but I will save it for my next post, because it isn’t easy.