An examination of the phrase “It’s a God thing” in reference to the Olympics, and cornflakes cereal.
A couple months ago, when I started to proofread and revise my writing for this blog, I learned something unexpected. I became painfully aware of how many words and phrases I had been tossing around for years with very little understanding as to what they actually meant. It was inconceivable, so I downloaded a dictionary app and set a goal to strive towards improving my language precision. I realized that speaking words with weight, especially in the realm of one’s faith, is important. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to fill awkward spaces with comforting phrases and become fluent speakers of “Christianese.”
The Divine Dormitory?
A couple years ago, in a summer after college and before grad school, I faced the tough task of finding an affordable and safe apartment in the Eastbay: a combination often difficult to come by in Oakland, California. After an oddly enthusiastic tour near Samuel Merritt University, one of the potential roommates pulled me aside with a serious look on her face and said,
“isn’t this crazy? I mean, we were praying for a roommate—a Christian female with an active lifestyle, who doesn’t party too much—and you literally emailed us right then! Do you think this is like…a God thing?”
I didn’t know what to say. The last two apartments seemed like equally good options, but I also didn’t want to disrupt the apparent divine dormitory dynamic. So I shrugged while nodding slightly, and said (in honesty) that I would pray about it. In hindsight, to answer her question more directly, sure. The situation offered potential Christian community and an answer to prayer for both of us. So yes, in roommate form, I suppose I could classify as “a God thing.” But along those lines, I believe I was also knit together in my mother’s womb, and born as “a God thing.”
Me things vs God things
I have noticed, we typically use the God thing phrase, only in reference to an uncanny coincidence involving unlikely events falling together in accordance with a certain desire. Now, I don’t say this in any way to discount a divine encounter or answer to prayer. However, phrase in this context becomes problematic if it implies we can divide everything of God–his promises, provisions, and gifts–into two groups: ‘God things’ and ‘me things.’ The division mindset can erode our sense of gratitude for the ordinary, although no less astonishing, blessings such as a job, a friendship, a sunset, His peace, His wisdom, or His grace. The Bible reminds us that every good and perfect gift is from above, yet we won’t see it this way if we search for God only scenes of earthly grandeur.
Consider the Corn Flake
When I attended youth group camp in junior high and high school, I distinctly remember part of the tradition was to enjoy a disregard of social norms for the whole week. Kids would do anything from prank other cabins, eat copious amounts of dessert, share teary eyed testimonies, or belly flop from the diving boards above, all in the name of Jesus or friends and fellowship. But oddly, no one ever stood up at breakfast to announce a breakthrough after pouring themselves a miniature box of cornflakes cereal. Although I wonder why not.
Really, why didn’t anyone ever stand up to say, “I am blown away by this bowl of starchy substance! God provided a corn seed, which grew into a plant, that was harvested and dried into a cereal vessel conducive to holding milk—all so that I can enjoy the process of tasty ingestion and energy assimilation!?” To my knowledge, corn flakes don’t bring teens to their knees in curiosity and prayer about whether each flake was a crunch of God. Granted, the popularity of the paleo diet might have something to do with the disregard for corn. But more likely, it’s because our eyes are peeled for “God things” only under the umbrella of what we consider culturally extraordinary.
The Olympic Sound Track
See, I am not advocating we eliminate this phrase from of our vocabulary. Actually, technically speaking, we could use it more often. Take the Olympic games for example. All the Olympians—specifically the ones toeing the line for the prestigious 10,000-meter track race—are undoubtedly, a living, breathing, herd of “God things.”
Pumping vast volumes of blood with each stroke of the heart, they are a stampede of biomechanically beautiful machines composed of pulleys, levers, ambition, and spirit. As the bell lap signals the runners to fight for a medal, every leg will ache in acidity, and every chest will rise and fall in rapid gasps of air.
Each breath in their lungs is miraculous. To Breathe in God, and breathe out thing is not only the song of the Olympic soundtrack, but it’s the beat of our lives. All of us, olympian or otherwise, breathe as a collective choir to a continuous melody… God-thing-God-thing-God-thing-God-thing. And one day, when we exhale our last breath, and the things of this world fall away, we finally get the chance to say…GOD.
*If you stumbled upon this post, and it positively affected you in any way, or maybe you think it’s a God thing, feel free to leave a comment below, or share it to facebook 🙂