There was a board game that fascinated me as a child, named ‘Mouse Trap’. The game would begin with each of the players working together to build this incredibly elaborate and complicated mouse trap (because we’re so good at naming things for kids). Once the trap was built, it then became a game of trying to trap your opponents’ mouse so that you could get the cheese at the center of the board. It was the kind of game that made me wonder about getting into engineering and building things.
The game itself is built around a ‘Rube-Goldberg’ machine, which is a machine that performs a seemingly simple task (catching a mouse, for example), in a seemingly complicated system (a 17 piece mouse trap). In the moment of it all, you look at this contraption, the path that has been created, and ask a lot of questions: Is this actually going to work? Was that entirely necessary? Is it supposed to look this way?
People often talk about the way God works in our lives as “mysterious”, implying the unseen, unknown elements working together. Scripture talks about it. Pop culture references it (“The Lord works in mysterious ways”). But often times it seems to be so overly complicated and complex, or so loosely held together that many people are left wondering if it was God, or if they just wanted it to be God. (At least, I know I have been left wondering that).
I can’t help but wonder if most of our spiritual lives are elaborate Rube-Goldberg machines orchestrated by God. Events in our lives all seem wildly disconnected until they’re suddenly converging in extraordinary ways. It could all seem miraculous if it weren’t so seemingly random. There are a number of things that had to happen and not happen for me to be exactly where I am today, doing what I am doing. If I had been more successful in some areas or failed more in others, my path would be different than it currently is.
Some may call it “chance”, or serendipity. Maybe it’s luck or circumstance. After all, why would God overcomplicate something as critical and important as making Himself known? Why all of the subtle complexity? Why no more burning bushes or angels? Why no more feeding of the multitudes?
Do you remember the gut-wrenching, butterfly giving feelings of trying to impress someone you had a crush on? You both desperately wanted to let them know you liked them, so much so that you could only think about how you were going to do it (instead of say, class), but you were also terrified that if you came on too directly or too strong, they would
crush your heart into tiny pieces tell you ‘No’.
So what did we do? We played these elaborate, overly complex games trying to get our crushes attention without overdoing it, because we didn’t want to scare them off.
Now, I don’t think God has a teenage crush on humanity, and I certainly don’t think He can be God and be scared of us rejecting Him in the same way we were. But I also know that God wants us to choose to be in relationship with Him, rather than be so overwhelmed by Him that we almost feel obligated to say yes because He finally wore us down.
What if the seemingly unnecessary complexity of God’s activity in our lives is to preserve the simplicity of a relationship? Rather than leaving us with no option but to choose Him, we are given the opportunity to choose our relationship. Because if God were too obvious in my life, I would lose the awe and wonder that comes from that relationship. I wouldn’t have the proverbial butterflies when things just seem to line up. I wouldn’t have the emotional investment in the relationship.