Years after the divorce I returned to the dating pool, (which is completely filled with bacteria, and all other debris by the way.) I was very confident in the fact that in the few years prior I did the self work. I went to therapy, I journaled, I dated myself. I became selective on who I shared space with. It was a new and exciting time to say the least. But, I soon realized that not everyone in the dating pool was looking for the same thing. Not everyone was who they said they were. Not everyone came with the right intentions. And, I didn’t always see the signs. Instead I chose to fill myself with the bread of lies I wanted to hear.
In John’s account of the crowds running after him to make him King after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, we find Jesus running from the crowd. Once the crowd found him and asked “when did you come here?” Jesus answered with, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
When we seek out things for the wrong reasons it can be devastating to our souls. I was so eager to date and move into the next season I was more concerned with how I was reacting to certain things, but I ignored the signs. I even had a temporary epiphany at one point when I saw the red flag, and asked myself “Shani, how red does the flag need to be?” And, when I talk to myself, “she” gets really dramatic, and started to name the different shades of red– burgundy, scarlet, crimson, maroon, vermillion, carmine, falu, candy apple, like, for real? What color red does the flag have to be?
John uses the term signs to describe the miracles Jesus was performing and the entire sixth chapter is dedicated to recounting these signs. Jesus then tries to use the miracles as a teaching mechanism but it does not land with the people. The crowds were more concerned with having their physical needs met that they couldn’t see the real message. This entire journey toward a life of abundance and eternal life is to believe in the spectacular miraculous. The spectacular miraculous is the entire theme of this season. Being intentional about seeing all the signs. How many times have you asked God, “show me a sign”, “give me a sign”, “I just need a sign, Jesus”. We often ask for things we are not ready for and then we have to inspect the color red of the flag.
What would it look like for us to rely solely on the signs of Christ? To affix our hearts and minds on the One who came simply because of love, who walked the earth for love, and died knowing love would always win.
What would it feel like for us to experience this life day in and day out, always searching and looking for the signs? If we woke up each day with an expectation of a miracle happening before our eyes. What if the song of our heart was The Clark Sisters,
“I’m Looking for a miracle
I expect the impossible
I feel the intangible
I see the invisible”
And, when we expect the impossible miracle to move us, we also believe that we deserve it, that just by existing we can be benefactors of something good, holy, and right.
Many of us have endured relationships where we were sought after not for who we are but what we can provide someone else. Black bodies have always been commodified to advance an agenda that does not benefit ourselves. Our God given power and strength is always demonized before it is celebrated. What do we do when people, systems, and the familiar want to take our souls?
We are reminded to look to where our help comes from. As this new year unfolds before us we stay in the beauty of now. Today. Look for the miracles moving all around. Find comfort in those signs that remind us of a Creator made in our own image. Define God for yourself. Look for God inside you. Do not get cynical and box God into this compartment that you only take out when you need bread, but seek Jesus to fill your cup up, restore your soul.
Consider that resting may be the miracle of the day.
Consider that the embrace of a hug from a loved one is the impossible expectation.
Wonder if the feeling of something longed for and not coming together is forming and is tangible.
And, then know you had an encounter with The Divine who loves you and invites you into an abundant life with everlasting love.
- What are the signs in your life that show God dwells among us?
- How are those signs transforming you in this season?
One word to describe Shani McIlwain is a storyteller. She is committed to telling the stories of a God and God’s people. As a bestselling author Shani, has worked passionately at the intersection of faith and justice, hosting podcasts, and anything that allows for her creativity to shine. A 2023 Luther Seminary Seed Fellow, former moderator of National Capital Presbytery, Shani has served the church in many different capacities as a ruling elder. She recently began a new chapter as a communications strategist for Presbyterian Mission Agency which she continues to say is her dream job.