Gotcha God

by Joanie Butman


Meet my new friend Marty. I bumped into him recently during a trip to Stop & Shop. I turned into the produce aisle and crashed into him - literally. Marty is a supermarket robot - Stop & Shop’s newest employee. He has one job – to roam the aisles looking for spills. Though I find his googly eyes and big smile adorable, there are many who find his vigilance “creepy” and consider his camera a violation of privacy.

The grocery store is probably the last place you expect to experience a spiritual moment, but God has a way of showing up in the strangest places. As I continued to bump into Marty during my rounds (his eyes may be cute, but they don’t seem to work well), it occurred to me that people tend to view God in a similar fashion. They either appreciate the fact that they have someone watching over them or consider Him to be a Gotcha God, watching and waiting to mete out punishment for the smallest infraction, recording our behavior for future reference.


I could certainly understand the latter. He was the God I was introduced to by the nuns. I spent years trying to evade His watchful eye. What’s that expression, “You can run, but you can’t hide”? It took decades, but eventually I crashed into Him too. Sometimes it’s the only way God gets your attention. Richard Rohr calls it a Divine Ambush, and it always involves suffering – sometimes as a consequence of our own actions or those of others, or sometimes as a result of living in a broken world.

It was only through suffering that I realized God wasn’t watching and waiting to condemn me. The nuns had already taken care of that. Their tutelage short-circuited any budding spiritual navigational system, which became as directionally challenged as Marty’s. I ricocheted from one mess to the next. Only through years of Bible study did I finally discover God’s “gotcha” isn’t one of condemnation but one of blessed assurance – the kind you say when you catch someone who stumbles, or perhaps when you are trying to coax your child to jump into the deep end of the pool. God wasn’t waiting to point an accusatory finger, but to extend His everlasting arms to catch me in a loving embrace.


One of the biggest complaints Marty’s co-workers have is that he detects items as small as a paper clip, calling for cleanup when none is needed. I use to feel the same way when I heard people praying for a parking space or some other benign request. Personally, I didn’t want to ‘bother’ Him with small issues. It was as if I thought there was a finite number of requests for Divine assistance allotted, and I wanted to preserve mine for something BIG. Again, it took me half a lifetime to realize that nothing is too small to bring to God. Nothing goes unnoticed by Him anyway – good, bad and everything in between. He is involved in the smallest details of our lives, weaving it all into a beautiful tapestry of His love.


So, is Marty going to become a permanent fixture at Stop & Shop? I think his software needs some tweaking before he can prove himself useful enough to warrant his hefty price tag. On the other hand, God’s permanence will never change. He is the one constant in my life. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. There isn’t a heftier price tag than what Jesus paid for God’s grace to be readily available to all who seek it.

If you are hesitating to jump into the deep end of spirituality, know that Christ is the life preserver we can always rely on. People and circumstances can disappoint us, but God’s love never fails. You don’t need to know how to swim to jump into the deep end with Him because He is indeed a Gotcha God.