Without looking at the bedside clock, I can tell what time it is -- I note the degree of darkness outside, the presence or absence of passing cards, the presence or absence of waking birdsong.
I can tell whether it is raining, even if it is raining so gently that I can neither see nor hear it -- I look at the roof outside the window at the top of the stairs, where raindrops fall into the wide gutter that slopes. Or I look at the branch outside our window -- raindrops hit its leaves and they tremble a bit with each drop. Or I listen to the tires of passing cars hiss as they encounter a wet pavement.
In a few months, I will be able to tell if it has snowed before getting out of bed: by the brightness of the sky out our window in the middle of the night, by the quiet slow passing of early cars, by the grinding of the passing plow.
We can, I have heard, accurately predict the number of gold medals a country will win in the Olympics by an analysis of that country's economy. Some of us can, I mean -- not me personally.
We have so many ways of figuring out what's happening in the world. Jesus remarked upon it several times -- You're so good at reading the signs of the weather, he says. Why can't you see the obvious signs of the spirit? Why are we so smart in so many ways and so clueless about reading the signs of God's presence in our lives? We hear of a miracle and bend over backwards to embrace every other possible explanation for it but the one we need: we do not inhabit the universe alone. It is created, as we are. It shows forth the hand of its creator at every turn.
Is it because we think the world would have to be perfect to show forth the presence of God? Probably. But would it? In the creation stories as we have them, nothing is said about things being perfect. They simply exist, and existence is glory enough. We are alive, and alive is good enough -- nobody said anything about everything being perfect. What God has given us is life, and life is a glorious tangle of beauty and ugliness, a gracious sufficiency.
We can learn to see the signs of this graciousness in the same way we learned to smell the rain or hear the hiss of car tires on a wet pavement. We learned these things because we needed to know them. We paid attention, and we figured them out. Human beings will pay close attention to what they think they need.