Imagine a little boy stuck in a deep well. The water in the well has long been dried up and the boy’s incredible thirst pales in comparison to his claustrophobia. The sun is out and bearing its heat down. The skies are a pristine blue except for a few strands of cirrus clouds hovering over him. There may be other people above ground near him, or wolves barking in the distance, or birds soaring overhead, but none of that is important. This boy, though, is important.
He starts praying. Earnestly. For a sign. For the calm to reverse. For the sun to shrivel. For the skies to turn a deep royal purple and fiery orange. For the clouds to grow and swirl and rage. For a bird to swoop down and save him.
If the boy suddenly sees the drama of nature, he’ll know for sure that God is speaking to him.
There will be no mistaking that God is giving him a sign.
An irrefutable, brilliant, profound sign.
A sign that God wants him to get out of this pit.
But the sign has to be big.
It has to be Hollywood.
I love independent films.
There’s just something about a well-made low-budget movie that really captures my attention.
Maybe it’s the fact that the writers really, honestly want to tell their story their way. Without all the fancy lighting and effects and wallop of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters.
Maybe it’s the fact that the film scores often are what I could imagine listening to on headphones when I’m jogging. If I jogged or something.
Often times, though, I won’t find out about these movies through TV ads or movie trailer previews at the local theater. The usually-low budget of these movies limits the exposure they get.
So, word of mouth will promote them. Online sites dedicated to indie flicks will promote them. And, above all, film festivals help promote them.
The Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest of these festivals in the United States. Every year, for a couple of weeks in January, they host new projects from independent filmmakers around the world.
So, maybe you’ve never heard of “Mother of George” or “Metro Manila” or “Fruitvale Station”– three films that won awards at the 2013 Festival. Honestly, you may never end up hearing about or watching these films, but there’s an important reason why the Festival is still so important.
Because if all we were looking for was blockbusters and A-list movie stars and mega-budgets, we would have missed out on this thriller, this Tarantino classic, this stunner, this subtle comedy, and the dude from this cult comedy.
If all we were looking for was Hollywood, we’d miss out on the indie films.
And, the truth is, the relative lack of pageantry in indie films doesn’t diminish the quality of the projects at all. They are still excellent, worthwhile projects despite the glaring dearth of opulence and decadence oozing from the screen.
But, sometimes, all we really look for at all is Hollywood.
Often times, our prayers to God have us bracing for something epic.
An epic sign. Something obvious. Something big. Something we can tell our friends about. Something we can blog about.
Often times, our prayers to God have us bracing for Hollywood.
We know what God did for Abraham and how He provided a sacrifice in place of his son. We know what God did for Moses when He sent ten plagues to devastate the pharaoh. We know what God did for Joshua when He made Jericho crumble like an unstable Jenga fortress.
We know just how big their signs were. And we think that God will obviously do that for us. We think it, we believe it, and we pray it.
So, we expect our own Jenga fortresses to manifest before our very eyes. If God wants me to get this job or take this trip or make this decision, this other thing shaped like a gigantic Jenga fortress will show up tomorrow morning when I wake up, indicating that I should proceed- just like God would want me to. And we won’t stop praying until we see that Jenga fortress.
The truth, though, is that God doesn’t only provide Jenga fortress-sized signs. For all the Abraham and Moses and Joshua signs in the Bible, there were still moments when God chose to be loudly silent- to bring about total dependence on His will.
We pray for Jenga fortresses. For Hollywood. Because, if God wants us to do something, He ought to show us we need to do it.
Seems to make sense, right?
Until you read about Joseph.
That boy in the well from earlier in this post? Joseph. (Well, kind of. He didn’t quite pray for the big things I mentioned earlier, but that was an illustration to prove my grander point.)
And the reason why I find Joseph to be incredibly important to talk about is because of just how counterintuitive he happens to be with regards to what we expect God to do for us.
Put yourselves in Joseph’s sandals (because he probably didn’t wear shoes).
Joseph fully trusted in God. He was tossed into a well by his brothers… We would all pray desperately for a rescue. Joseph didn’t get rescued.
He got sold to slave traders for 20 pieces of silver… We would pray for freedom from slavery. Joseph didn’t get freedom.
He got sold to Potiphar, one of the pharaoh’s top officials… As good as things happen to be going for us in that household, we would pray for the chance to return home. Joseph didn’t get to return home.
He got framed for making sexual advances on Potiphar’s wife and was thrown into jail… As good as things happen to be going for us in that jail, we would pray for the chance to be free again. Joseph didn’t get freed right away.
It took him another 3 years or so to get out of jail.
Here’s the point. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray. I’m not saying that God doesn’t answer prayers. But I am saying that God sometimes holds off on giving us the answers we’re looking for because He wants us to completely trust in His plan for our lives.
Joseph trusted God’s plan for his life completely.
He may have prayed for Hollywood and Jenga fortresses, but God was going to be loudly silent until the moment was right to restore him.
And God restored Joseph, eventually, by getting him out of prison and directly into a government position right below the pharaoh.
God had a plan.
Joseph knew that.
We are that boy trapped in a well. We all grapple with situations in our lives that make us realize that only God has the power to save us from the storms.
But, far too often, we pray for the grandiose. The Hollywood. The Jenga fortresses.
Are you ready for the silence? Are you ready for those moments when God doesn’t answer you right away? For those moments when God bides His time so that He can restore you to the position you were destined for in the first place?
Are you ready to trust God and take steps of faith even when you haven’t gotten magnificent signs and wonders that make your forward progress that much easier?
Are you ready to realize that God’s not only in the business of Hollywood or Jenga fortresses, but also in the business of subdued profundity?
Remember that those indie films leave indelible dents on the world just as much as those blockbusters do. We just have to understand that.
And honestly, the movie is better off that way anyway. ■