While out running errands the other day, I stopped at a traffic light behind a car with the license plate LOKATGD. I puzzled for a moment and then, by supplying a couple of Os, read the message as “Look at God.”
Look at God, Look at God, I said to myself. I glanced around to see if I could see God anywhere, realizing immediately that if I’d been on the Colonial Parkway, the challenge would have been easier. Trees wearing delicate spring greens, an eagle or osprey fishing the York River, other species of wildlife foraging at the woods’ edge, blossoming buttercups, Yorktown onions preparing to burst into full purple bloom—surely looking at any of those things on a gentle May morning in Virginia would have been akin to looking at God.
But I was not on the Parkway, nor was I on some quaint country road or even a lovely city street. I was on heavily traveled Route 17. With all its trucks and school buses and business traffic, it’s not the most attractive road in the world. The county has planted crepe myrtles in the median—a beautification effort I applaud. No matter how wonderful they are, however, such plantings can only go so far in distracting one’s gaze from the omnipresent roadside telephone poles and wires, the cold and harsh signs marking strip malls, and the empty cans and plastic bags that invariably get tossed out of car windows or blown from the beds of pick-up trucks. Look at God. Look at God. But where?
The absence of an immediate answer to the “where?” question made me feel vaguely condemned. Why is it easy to see God in the beauty of the natural world—but not so easy in surroundings dominated by fast food establishments, used car lots, and gas stations? Shouldn’t I be able to see God anywhere I look?
But wait. Maybe LOKATGD doesn’t mean “Look at God.” If, instead of adding two Os, I supply an E and an O, re-think the pronunciation of the vowels into a long O and long A, and imagine the K as a hard C, I can make out an alternate reading—not “Look at God,” but “Locate God.” How does that alter the project?
The light changed before I could ponder further, and I went on about my errands. Days later, though, I’m still thinking about that moment at a traffic light on Route 17. I wonder who the person was who chose the lettering for the plate, what he or she meant by it, and whether he or she feels challenged by it the way I do. No matter which way I read it, I am led to questions. Where and how should I direct my gaze when I want to look at God? Is there anywhere I can look where I will not find him? That might be one set of questions. Another might go something like this: Where do I locate God in relation to myself? Do I place her close at hand, hoping she might be a comfort or a guide? Or, fearing that she might turn into an inconvenience or a nuisance if we become too close, do I position her somewhere more distant?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that both looking at God and locating God have everything to do with how I view the world and my place in it. Both looking at God and locating God are activities I would do well to undertake anew each day. What about you? Where and how do you LOKATGD?