A few years ago, I was convinced that God spoke to me through a billboard. He did not come to life in Monty Python and the Holy Grail fashion with a booming voice and parted silver-lined clouds. It had been a hard week. For some reason, I was just sure that my family was crumbling apart, that life as I knew it was turning to crumbs. I’ve always had a dramatic flair and a ridiculous tendency to worry, but regardless, I was hurting. I had spent the night at my grandmother’s house and was driving to my summer job, on the verge of tears.
Do you ever get angry at yourself for crying? I was wishing that I were stronger, feeling pathetic for crying so much. I felt ashamed that I was sad, that I wasn’t holding my composure. And then – on Hwy 121, there it was. There he was.
A billboard advertisement for bottled water. A giant blue bottle of water was tilted to let a few little water droplets fall out of the somehow majestic looking bottle. The drops were clear and crisp and blue and perfect. Above the photo ad, there were the words “Every Drop Is Beautiful.”
Passing by at 65 mph, the revelation hit me suddenly. Every drop is beautiful to God. Every tear I cry, no matter how many, is precious to him, not pathetic or shameful, but beautiful. When I turn to Him in my crisis, His heart is filled and overflowing. I was overwhelmed with peace and astounded at having felt God’s presence. God spoke to me through that billboard. Call me crazy.
I remember when my cousin Gracie was just a baby. She was crying one day about something, something small like having to take a nap or a balloon flying away, and someone made a comment about her “little baby problems.” Her mother, my aunt, laughed and then said something I will never forget: “Her little baby problems are just as big to her now as your problems are to you.”
That day in the car on hwy 121, I did not feel worthy to cry and feel sad and ask God to help me. I felt like my problems were nothing compared to what some people go through. But my problems were very real to me, and regardless of severity, problems are never too small for God’s comfort.
After my billboard day, I realized that God speaks to people uniquely. Not everyone is reached at church, or through the bible, or through a small group. I find God in secular novels and movies, on billboards, in conversations with normal people. God must speak to everyone differently because everyone’s heart is different.
A side note- that’s why I love trees. They branch out, and twist, and turn, and break, and weather. Their limbs grow up and out, and their roots grow deep, and no tree is alike. Like trees, no one of us is the same as another. We grow, and break, and re-grow. We twist and turn, and there are roots that grow unseen inside of us, and limbs we show to the word. Trees are my favorite metaphor.
I had never talked to my grandmother about God. I did not even know if she really believed in God. But one day on a road trip, I was telling her that I would like to write a book about how God speaks to everyone uniquely. I told her the book would be filled with testimonies and examples. And then my grandmother gave me her own testimony and shared a part of herself with me that before I had not known.
The year after her father had died, she cried off and on and was sad. I think she may have felt that as a grown woman with grown children it was a little silly to still cry for her dad – she, to this day, sweetly calls him daddy. She found herself missing him once more when her sister was donating bells to the church where her father’s funeral had been held. The church was holding a ceremony where they were thanking the family for the bells.
Nanna sat in a pew in the church and she was tearing up. Then a hand touched her shoulder, but when she looked no one was there behind her. She had distinctly felt the touch, but more strangely, she felt a burden lifted from her. She felt peace, and she felt as though her daddy had let her know it was ok to not be sad. My grandmother, who had never actually felt God before, felt him then. She still believes in God, but has not felt him like that again. Every now and then, does God go above and beyond his everyday love for us? Every now and then does he reach down and say “I am here. I am real. Knock and the door is opened?”
For some reason my Nanna asked me today whether I thought a person had to go to church every week to go to heaven and whether God only hears the prayers of those who have declared themselves his children. She had had a conversation about the topic and I suppose the questions posed lingered in her mind.
Did not God create us all and call us His children? Why would he not listen to the prayers and hearts of those he so longs for and loves? I do not think God gives up on us until the very, very end. I think it is so…simple. God is love and we are meant to love through his example. And yet, God is so complex…too complex for us to figure out and declare as concrete. Why do people try to dissect God and say he only loves this or that type of person?
God created us in his image. Yet, look how we are each unique. Look how many faces God has. He looks down, reaches down, reaches out to each of us in a way that is especially designed to touch our individual hearts. And as He is invested in each or our unique hearts, why then would He not listen to their pains and happiness? How would anyone become saved if God did not first listen to our prayers/hearts?