A Letter to Christian Cliches

I am not one to quibble about little phrases overused in society (yep. I am, actually) but one I see with regularity is “God showed up.”

Examples:

  • “You should have seen that car accident! God showed up and the onlooker was able to pull the man out of the burning truck.”
  • “Last night at the worship fest God really showed up. I couldn’t believe how many people made decisions for Christ.”
  • “I was so stressed about the meeting this morning but God showed up big time and the meeting went really great!

So I picture here God writing in his Day-Timer that he’s to show up at 7 pm for the worship concert and really wave his arms with vigor over the whole place. I envision God hearing the crash of the car and jogging over to the scene to give the onlooker the idea to help the man in the burning vehicle. I see God shifting his gaze just as the stressful meeting begins and orchestrating harmony all of the sudden since he just remembered your meeting.

Questions:

  • Do we really believe God is sometimes with us and at other times busy?
  • Do we think that there are some events worthy of God showing up and other events where He forgot or simply decided not to attend?
  • When we say “God showed up,” do we understand the implications of when we don’t say that or don’t believe He was there or present?
  • What do we truly mean when we use the phrase “God showed up?”

In the Old Testament I see in 2 Chronicles 6 and 7 that Solomon finishes building the temple and invites God to dwell in it. Even in this time before we were given the Holy Spirit that dwells in us, Solomon claims this earth cannot contain the almighty God. He then refers to God’s dwelling place as heaven. Solomon would not have then said,”Ya’ll should have seen it, God showed up.”

Ananias and Sapphira find themselves not being entirely transparent about a business deal and are being held accountable for their duplicity. It’s a subtle moment really; being struck dead by the Lord as a result of their misdealing (read Acts 5 for the whole story). Did God show up? Oh yes He did. Interestingly, I don’t recall this phrase ever being used in a “you-felt-the consequences-of-your-actions” kind of way. I mostly (read always) hear it used in a way that is akin to Santa showing up…a happy gift to brighten the day.

And so, English Language, what about Shekinah?

Exodus 13 shows us a picture of God showing up for quite a while in the form of fire during the night and a cloud by day. Exodus 33 tells us that to literally see God is impossible. Moses was given strict instructions to hide behind a rock while God was present so that he would not die as a result. These are examples of what the Hebrews called Shekinah glory – a situation where God was present or indwelling.

Is that what we are talking about when we say God showed up to your meeting? Shekinah glory?

Take me to task; what does “God showed up” mean to you? Could we use another phrase? One that describes His I-am-everywhere-all-the-time nature a little better? Am I being too picky about words? Tell me what you think – God’s gonna show up for this comment thread (big time), I just know it.