Signposts: Daily Devotions

Friday, May 9

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!"
—Genesis 28:16

Wherever we live, we often have trouble imagining that anything “special” can happen there. In the Gospel of John, for example, Jesus’ new follower Philip goes to his friend Nathanael to tell him that he has met the one of whom Moses spoke. Nathanael’s reaction: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Like many of us, Nathanael couldn’t envision the Divine emerging from such a prosaic place.

This isn’t to say that encounters with God can’t be dramatic, or that they can’t occur on mountaintops or in other extraordinary landscapes. They most definitely can. The reality, however, is that most of us live in unspectacular settings, with friends and jobs and homes that are very much like the ones we find down the road. Our access to more “spiritual” places—that is, those we assume to be more appealing to a finicky God—may be limited to once or twice a year, if even that.

In the classic film My Dinner with André, which comprises a single table conversation between two friends, Wallace Shawn puzzles over our tendency to look for enlightenment in exotic places only. He asks his friend André, “[W]hy do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? Is Mount Everest more real than New York?” Just being truly aware of what is right around us, he argues, would astound us.

And so it is with God. The kind of self-exploration that leads to a more intimate knowledge of the Holy doesn’t require that we become world travelers or even that we leave home. The numinous, the inexplicable presence of God, breaks in through the commonplace stuff of our lives.

O God, deliver me from looking for the Real in what is far away rather than in what is right before my eyes.

The Signposts for May are written by Susan Hanson and originally appeared on in September 2004.