I was five years old, and my parents drove a beast of an automobile. It was long, old and brown, sporting a few rust polka dots above the back wheel wells. After the school bell dismissed kindergarten, I would run out of my school’s red brick walls towards the old Buick parked on the other side of the playground’s fence. On that day, I ran hand-in-hand with my new friend, Heather. Her mother had requested we give her a ride home.
“Olivia, are you scared of the devil?”
My mom wondered why such a dark conversation erupted between two five-year-old girls with ponytails in the back seat.
“No, I’m not. God is always with me, Heather.”
Mom looked in the rearview mirror at my green eyes, and smiled. She loved that my young belief was simple; completely void of hesitation.
Heather waved goodbye, running into her home atop a hill. We drove on to run some sort of forgettable errand to the grocery store or McDonald’s. We soon found ourselves driving down the largest, fastest road in St. Joseph, Missouri.
I have a few visual memories from that day. Mom approached a stoplight, stepped on the brakes of the car, and looked frantically into her rearview mirror. The 18-wheel semi-truck did not notice the red light ahead and was driving full speed towards the back of the car, where I sat alone.
A huge crash. Metal scrunched in towards me. Broken glass flew all around.
My mother started screaming, “My baby. My baby.”
Employees from a nearby business came, hands full of towels, and sopped up my mother’s blood until the police and ambulance came.
The emergency workers carefully removed me from my crushed cage, immobilizing every possible part of my body on an ambulance gurney. My dad arrived at the hospital, frantically throwing open the emergency room’s doors.
The doctors were amazed. I survived with only a bite to my tongue. It didn’t make sense to them.
Later, as a family, we visited the crushed vehicle where it rested after the accident. My parents could not believe what they found. A perfect circle, completely free of glass, protected the exact place where I was sitting. The rest of the back seat was covered with shards. The roof of the car had taken an odd shape right above the place I sat. It was now shaped like a well-defined umbrella—as if my own personal Mary Poppins-like angel had been sitting with me, ready to protect me from death.
Needless to say, a foundation was set for me on that day. I began to notice God. I began to look for His hand at work in my life and in the world around me. After years of this journey with Him, I can say with complete clarity that God is the keeper of my heart; my everything.
That is my story. But what if your story is in no way similar?
You have lived your entire life not thinking about God; not noticing Him or His work? You were even encouraged to believe that God is just a myth; a crutch of the weak who need religion. Some of you may even WANT to believe in God, but just cannot. There are too many questions, and one of the biggest ones is:
How can I believe in something I cannot see, or that doesn’t seem believable?
To you, God is invisible. But what if God, your entire life, actually appeared quite often and you never noticed Him? Perhaps God did something as crazy as appearing before you in a gorilla suit, dancing the moonwalk, and you were too busy with life to notice.
In the early 2000s, researchers Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, performed an experiment all over the world to determine just how attentive we are as human beings.
Test groups watched video clips of a group of six people, divided into two teams of three. The teams tossed balls back and forth to each other, and the audience was asked to pay attention and simply count how many times one team passed the ball.
In the middle of the game, a man dressed as a gorilla jumped into the middle of the teams and, for nine whole seconds, did what any true gorilla does: emphatically beat his chest (and in some studies even did the moonwalk) across the playing field.
Researchers found that while most people were able to give a correct number of passes, only 50 percent of the viewers saw the chest-thumping gorilla. Of those asked to count passes while using their cell phones, only 10 percent noticed the hairy Michael Jackson on the screen.
You can watch details and an example of the experiment here.
Viewers were in shock that they could have missed something so evident. The researchers found that nearly every person interviewed believed, to their very core, that they would be one of the observant ones who could never possibly miss the gorilla. Yet, 50 percent of them did.
The psychologists labeled this phenomenon: inattentive blindness. In other words, when we are busy with life and all of its stimuli, it is very possible that we become blind to reality. Yet, at the same time we are blind, we have a core belief that there is absolutely no way we ever could be. We are 100 percent confident that we know how our mind and the world around us works, but we are simply wrong.
The first step is being open to the idea that we could have missed something very obvious. What if that something was God?
Chabris and Simons went on to conclude that unless we, as humans, are able to open up our minds and recognize that our perception of our world, life (and I would add—God) could be wrong, we will never be able to see the real world and situations around us.
So, I challenge you!
Are you willing to take a moment, or a season of your life, to explore this question? In ancient cultures, it was nearly always acceptable (in every people group, every continent) that God existed. They saw His indescribable presence and work everywhere. What has changed? What if the idea of God is actually not that unbelievable?
God is never scared of our most difficult questions.
The Bible says that “faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. “ (Hebrews 11)
What do you secretly hope for? Perhaps it is time to lay those things down in front of God, open up your heart and mind to the possibility that He is real, and see what happens.
Remember, God often uses people to do His work. It may be the perfect words said at the precise time, or someone who acts out of complete generosity and love when you desperately need it. God is the great conductor of this orchestra called life, and He can use any instrument He finds ready and in-tune to Him.
Send up a prayer to God. Test Him.
Prayer does not have to be done in a fancy church and has no need to be officiated by a pastor or priest. It is just your heart speaking to God in the privacy of your home, car, shower, or work place.
If you want to accept my challenge, take a moment and pray something like this.
If you are real, please show me.
Open up my eyes. Protect my heart from the things I have always believed; keep it soft. If You are real, help me to see You at work all around me.
You know me well (you always have), so show me in a way that I alone can understand.
And please, dear God, give me moves like Jackson. I’ve always wanted to do the moonwalk.
To listen to week one of our “Unbelievable? What if God answered your biggest questions?” teaching series at Focus Church where this question is explored, click here.
Olivia Puccini is the Creative Arts/Music Pastor at Focus Church. She loves to write, sing, exercise, play piano, and is still attempting to learn the moonwalk.