My oldest daughters introduced me to a TV show from 2004 called Joan of Arcadia that lasted only a couple of seasons on CBS.
It’s a silly, teenage, high-school drama. I love it.
I don’t love it for the drama, although sometimes it can jerk an emotional nerve and touch a tender spot.
I don’t love it for the acting, although it’s as good as any other cheesy high-school drama on TV, I suppose.
I don’t love it for the theological power it conveys, although I’m always impressed by a TV show that can take God seriously (and then get cancelled).
I love it because God always waves as he walks away from a conversation with Joan.
Joan Girardi, who lives in Arcadia, finds herself confronted by and speaking to God in various scenarios.
At various times in each episode, God shows up to talk to Joan. He usually says something smug or personal as she walks by and that’s how she realizes it’s him. Sometimes he’s the school janitor, or a punk kid with piercings and a mohawk, or an old lady in a book store, or some other character whom you’d never suspect to be deity.
God is basically just a wise, sensitive counselor in various human forms in Joan of Arcadia, dispensing advice that is sweet and helpful for Joan and her friends with some meaningful life lessons. It’s ridiculous, really, and absolutely cheesy and pop-culture with a spiritual twist.
I love it, though, really. I get all excited and jumpy when I see God in the hallway of Joan’s school. I love it when God shows up unexpectedly, dressed in some crazy garb and looking so human. She just talks to him, like a real conversation. Sometimes they cry and hug. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes it takes the whole episode for Joan to figure out what in the world he wants her to do.
The best part of all, though, is when God walks away from Joan after leaving their hallway rendezvous. The camera is focused on Joan and her friends in the foreground, starting their conversation again, and God is fading into the background.
As he fades, every time, after you’re sure he’s out of the scene and nobody’s looking, God waves. He waves. His back is to the camera, he’s walking away, and he raises his arm without turning around to face the camera and he waves as he walks away.
I love that.
I know. It’s silly. It’s brilliant.
God waves as he walks away, full of confidence, knowing he just made Joan more confused and she can’t possibly understand and he looks crazy dressed in Goth black with metal studs on his belt, and he waves.
It’s like a secret code, just between me and him. He’s fading from focus, he’s departing, but he knows that I can’t take my eyes off him. Regardless of what’s happening in the foreground, he knows I’m watching him in the background, and then he’s so confident that he doesn’t even have to turn to make sure I’m looking.
He just waves, certain I’m still watching and waiting for that sign. It’s our little secret of subtlety.
I like being able to pick up on God’s subtle signs. I think we’ve tried to make him too obvious, and I think he doesn’t like to be so obvious. We think God looks like this and says thing like that and behaves like so. But that’s not him.
God is in places you don’t expect him to be, saying things you would never think he could say, and contributing to stuff that’s not important to you.
Then, as he walks away, and we move on with our days, he waves. He just waves, without turning. Hoping, knowing, trusting that someone is watching and they know. I want to know when God waves. I want him to know I’m watching.
Talking to him, especially when he looks like an old woman, would be a bonus.