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Personal BLog

god in the movie theatre

Anna Naphtali

It was Easter and I was alone and feeling slightly more aware of my alone-ness. I didn’t think I could handle going to church, for many reasons, so I ventured to the movie theatre in pursuit of inspiration. I went to see “The Shack” a book I read about a decade prior, that was left unfinished, as I was uncomfortable with the idea of God as woman. Now, ironically struggling with God as man, I sat alone in a theatre ready for my Sunday morning. Hoping for a life-changing encounter, struggling to stay interested, due to the awkward sequence changes and terrible prop styling, I noticed a ruffling sound happening out of view. It was coming through the only side entrance, but there wasn’t anyone in the theatre with me… or was there. As a figure didn’t emerge, and my sudden fears of movie shootings on Easter were heightening, I started to panic. I was going to have to rush out the same way as the noise to save my life from the shooter. The rustling was getting closer so I hopped up and ran toward the exit, to see a figure standing there with something in it’s hand and it walked toward me revealing a security guard uniform and I laughed outloud and said, “you scared me, I thought you were a shooter.” She came closer, a black woman with a smile said, “no sometimes I like to come in here when no one’s here.” I sat back down in my seat and she joined me for a while, a few rows forward.

With my sudden adrenaline settling and this terrible movie with it’s only redeeming quality being this beautiful black woman being portrayed as God saying soothing words like, “sugar” and “baby”. I calmed down and then on my mystic quest for meaning on this Easter morning, I whispered in my heart, “God is that you, in the security suit? Are you watching this movie with me?”

I used to live in this strange state of supernatural encountering, believing with all my heart, that I’d meet God somewhere dressed up in mysterious ways… that I’d prophetically induce interactions of Christian psychic behavior on street corners, and beg God himself to show up in my room as a child, so I could see him… alas, he never showed up, I faked every “slain” in the Spirit moment in my charismatic church years ago, I tried to feel it all, and always, felt nothing, saw nothing and walked away as the rejected evangelical informant.

Now on the complete opposite side of mystic, I lived questioning the very existence of God in entirety. BUT still with the same whisper, “I don’t know if you’re real, but I hope so.”

But as I was warmed by watching God, the black woman, on the screen, and oddly comforted by the black woman security guard who joined me on this lone venture… In delusional began to hope again that I was finally with God, that she had finally met the requests of three decades of begging for a glimpse. The security guard left before the movie was over, and I left with a smile and went to a nearby café where I sat outside to relish in my private, made-up moment of meeting God alone in the theatre.

As I instagrammed my red pepper and gouda soup on this shining, frail Easter Sunday, I looked up and saw the security guard walking around and checking in on some stores. My heart began to sink… and I began to laugh at how disappointed I truly was that she was an actual security guard and not a God angel sent to join me on my spiritual quest. Cynicism began to form a lump in my throat as I ate my Easter lunch. All the disappointments of “What I believed where God” began to well up and project into this moment. I thought I knew better than to let myself dream up these moments, after all this mysic life of God-searching had left me internally burned. I began to cry into my soup at my own silliness, and my own pain of what I used to believe.

Sniffling, the woman walked by as she made her rounds, and I decided to talk to her to confirm she wasn’t an angel. I asked her to join me and we laughed that I was scared that she was the Easter movie shooter, I didn’t mention that I also thought she was God… and I learned she had a son, and her name, and she learned I had a daughter…  and it was a real interaction and it was ok and nice to meet her and I swallowed my tears and made due with my spirituality and leaned in the sun as she walked away, soaking my indifference and neutrality and chuckling at myself.

After a while of turning my heart to what I know is the only safe spiritual practice I have, I acknowledged the pleasure of the soup that suddenly wasn’t that great, and the sun that was getting too hot, and I opened my eyes to throw away my trash and move on and Berta, the security guard was hobbling toward me holding something. She walked over holding an envelope and recommended, “For you and your daughter to go see the spelling bee movie together.” And muttered something about a false break-in at the store down the street that she had to check on. She put the envelope in my hand, and it took a moment to realize she gave me free movie tickets…

And it all rushed into me like a chorus of laughter as if God him/herself had watched this amusingly unfold and I felt a whisper that said, “you DID meet God in the movie theatre… her name is Berta and she has a son at home and she works at Phillips Place circle and she likes to sneak in theatres and watch movies when no one is in them… and she listened with her human ears and heard you talk about your daughter, and noticed you were alone, and used her human heart of kindness to get you a gift…” and I smiled and teared up again because I remembered… I remembered the lesson I forgot, that while I’d love to transcend dimensions, opportunities to see God are walking all around me every day in crooked smiles, lazy eyes, little squeaky faces and hobbling security guards. That so often I’ve looked for the super-natural, and asked to see God, and stood in meetings, and in prophetic proclamations, and longed for glory dust and shakes and sparkles to know that God is real, and followed dreams and paths and people thinking it would make me closer to heaven and encounter only to leave me high and dry, on the floor, disappointed that when the curtain was pulled back every time, no one was there. It was made up. But on this Sunday on a sneaky search I found what I was looking for, the actual face of God was revealed and has been for this lifetime… in different skin tones, and body shapes, in the flickering eyes of human beings. The lady that let me cut in front of her in the car, the little toddler in target enthralled with joy unafraid to walk up to me and hug my leg, Yvonne the cashier who sneaks my daughter stickers and tells her she’s so pretty and smart and treats us like family for every 10 minute interaction, the man who helped me move boxes when I was overwhelmed, my little roommate who woke me up and pulled me down stairs with soggy cereal waiting for me, the friend who put a wash cloth on my head when I drank on an empty stomach and had my first accidental hangover, my father who saved me when I couldn’t save myself, my mother who hung curtains and re-arranged my living room when I was depressed… the human security guard who changed my life with movie tickets… these are the face of God that I longed to see and the glimpses are eternal. As approximately 7.444 billion opportunities to see God are dwelling among us on this earth.

I’ve been through the hoorah’s of religion only to find that if we seek God but don’t love people we will never find him. You can go to the ends of the earth, and stand on mountains, and drink the juice, and sing the songs, and not cut your hair, or cut it, grow your beard, or pierce your ears... you can speak in the tounges of angels but if you do not have love, and real love, the kind that looks people in the eye and treats every human with dignity and respect then you’ll miss it. You can have your revivals and tent meetings, and glory-fests, you can prance on stages and glow in the dark but if you don’t love people you’ll miss it. You’ll miss the treasure of meeting a stranger and hearing their story and holding their human hands... and finding God.