Meeting God in My Dad’s Truck and other crazy places
My friend Dora got a picture for me in prayer this week for my birthday. “I see you on a long, straight, and plain road. Keep walking, you are going the right direction.” Yep, that image resonated immediately. Some years just hold a lot more of the faithfulness in the mundane than others, and this year has been one of them.
Receiving images in prayer has been something I’ve developed over the years in my relationship with God. It started when years ago, I heard someone (Beth Moore?) say that every morning she placed cup of coffee across the table and imagined herself having coffee with Jesus. She would talk, read her Bible, journal, listen, and talk some more. That’s how she grew in her faith.
Sounded easy enough, so I started doing that. Except I didn’t start drink coffee until after I had kids, so I just sat in prayer, imagining Jesus sitting across from me every day. By the time I had developed a coffee addiction with three kids under three, coffee with Jesus was a luxury; my prayer life consisted of no words, just me sitting on the floor next to the couch, imagining my head in the lap of Jesus. I was in survival mode, pure and simple.
Over the years, I have interacted in prayer with God through many, many images: on beaches, in Bible stories, on my childhood prayer rock, by still waters, walking on the deep of the sea, in the throne room, etc. I’ve even met Jesus in Target— to process my love/hate relationship with the abundance of America.
I later learned this form of prayer was exercising what C.S. Lewis called a “sanctified imagination.” God can speak to us through all parts of our being: our mind, our emotions, our bodies, and even our imaginations, when they are yielded to His Spirit. Here I have learned to move towards more integration— imagination pulls my head down towards my heart, giving me space to dialogue with God through these images in my spirit.
The things God has shown me in these prayer times have been incredible! Jesus has shown me how to pray over my kids’ classrooms. I’ve pictured myself standing on the shores of the Mediterranean praying safety over boatloads of refugees. He has allowed me to sit at His feet during the crucifixion. I’ve even stood in front of Lazarus’ tomb calling a struggling friend back towards life.
But one of my all time favorite prayer times was when Jesus invited me to meet in my dad’s truck.
My dad owned a drywall company at the height of the construction boom in a small Colorado mountain town. His truck served as his office, smelling not so faintly like a blend of sweat, cigarette smoke, and drywall mud. Empty coffee cups and trash littered the floorboards, along with various John Denver and Paul Simon cassettes. My dad would periodically pay us kids to clean out the truck saying we could keep any quarters we found, which we promptly spent playing Frogger at the arcade next to the Wheel Bar downtown.
Some of my best memories with my dad are housed in that truck: the trips up and down the canyon rehashing every basketball and volleyball game together as we drove to play the neighboring towns, absolute peace in my dad’s driving skills even in the worst of ice and snow, long talks about where to go to college, and drives to visit the latest house he was working on that would be featured in some architecture magazine.
But my dad’s truck also held a significant amount of childhood angst for me. His mental illness meant we were never quite sure how long he might be stable. I found myself always kind of watching him out of the corner of my eye to make sure he was still around. In college when he was divorcing my mom, we had one of our worst fights ever in his truck ; he eventually had to pull over so we could yell at each other without distraction. You never quite knew what you would get when you got into my dad’s truck— sometimes he’d hand you a profound nugget of insight but other times he’d offer some crazy idea and try to convince you of it’s ancient wisdom. (Say it ain’t so – those of you who knew my dad!)
So when God led me in my mind’s eye to meet with him in the truck, I literally laughed out loud. “Seriously?! You want to meet in my dad’s truck?!” But there we were— Jesus in the driver’s seat, me in the passenger’s seat in my childhood version of my dad’s truck. Same coffee cups and cigarette butts on the floor. Same splattering of drywall mud on the seat. Same flood of love and wariness.
There we met in the truck, I was facing forward, venting about a conflict situation unfolding in my work place. After ranting and raving for a while, Jesus said to me, “Amy!” I turned to look at the driver’s seat and there Jesus sat dazzling in magnificent brilliance just like they describe him on the mount with the disciples. He was glowing. And so beautiful. Like can’t take my eyes off of him kind of beautiful.
I started laughing, saying, “You are going to transfigure yourself in my dad’s TRUCK??“ Surely the Lord could have thought of a better place to reveal His glory.
But I couldn’t take my eyes off Him. My eyes welled up with tears and I whispered, “You are so beautiful.” And there we sat staring at each other— the truck filled with radiating light.
I don’t know how long I sat there, but at some point, the kids started arriving to eat and pack lunches… so my revelry in God’s glory began being punctuated by everyday life “Mom! We’re out of cereal!”
I think I murmured responses, I don’t really know. When every day life gets in the way of my crazy prayer life, things get a bit fuzzy.
“Mom – it’s HER turn to walk the dog!’
I looked to Jesus, slightly embarrassed by the kids and feeling a bit like lovers interrupted in their gaze. Jesus gave me a radiant smile of understanding.
I finally tried to pull back from the image and asked Him, “Are you wanting to somehow imprint your glory over my dad’s truck? Why transfigure yourself HERE?”
He said nothing. Just radiated His glory over me and the mess. Then it dawned on me.
It’s His glory IN the mess. Here the blending of my two worlds came together— the dirty, smelly, littered truck and the dazzling beauty of Love personified. My broken, complicated father relationship dimly pointing me towards the Source of Love sitting in the driver’s seat. My kids’ bickering while I’m trying to take in the beauty of the Risen Christ. Heaven in the midst of earth..and His glory overshadowing it all.
I’ve met Jesus a few other times in the messy truck since then, but never have I seen Him radiating His glory quite the same way. As I face a new the last year in my 40’s which looks to be more of a ‘long obedience in the same direction’, I have to remind myself: His glory IS here in my everyday, mundane and imperfect life. My earth IS infused with His heaven, though it’s hidden behind the veil most of the time. And these punctuations of His glory are intended to fuel my faith in these seasons where there’s nothing but a long, straight road ahead.
This is one of the stories that I’m considering using in a book on which I’m currently working. My next post will give more specific help on engaging in the form of meditative prayer yourself. Would love to know your thoughts or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.