Throughout the history of humanity, this has been how we engage God. First we ask, is he real? And second, do we really need him?
What if the thing we are trying to impress him with was the very thing keeping us from him?
I love the song "Beautiful Things" by Gungor. It says, "You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things out of us."
God's people have always been good at running from him. Jeremiah was one of the people God sent to remind them that God was real and that they needed him, and that he wanted them back. So he sent Jeremiah to the home of a potter.
When Jeremiah arrived, the piece of clay in the potter's hands was misshapen and ruined. As Jeremiah watched, the potter reworked the same clay into something beautiful, an altogether different vessel.
As Jeremiah walked away, God asked him, "Can I not do with you as this potter has done?…Like the clay in the potter's hand, so you are in my hand" (Jer. 18:5–6).
Christ kept drawing close to broken people while he was here. For the woman caught in adultery, about to be stoned in John 8, her face in the sand, Jesus protected her from stones. And to protect her from eternal judgment, he whispered the same thing that he whispers to us: Repent, because you are not good; you are not okay. Come back to me. You need me. He says, Go and sin no more (John 8:11), which is impossible apart from the righteousness Christ offers to those who come to him in faith. He is what makes us right.
There is something so beautiful about people aware of their sin and their need for God. That is beautiful to God. He can work with that, enter into that. Jesus' first command after nearly every encounter with a needy person was for them to repent. He promised these broken people hope and healing. He promised to make a way for them. Often, after these encounters, he would turn to the religious people who seemed to have it all together and confront their sin of pride and pretending. Yet with every opportunity, for the most part, they never repented. They thought they were fine without Jesus. They did not need him.
A few years ago we were in San Antonio, enjoying a weekend away as a family. We had spent a day at SeaWorld and the next day on the River Walk. Most of my time was spent chasing our two-year-old and forcing her to hold my hand, mainly so she did not die. Often I found myself saying to her, "Caroline, hold my hand or you will get a time-out." I wanted to control her with that hand, for her protection.