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Posts Tagged ‘the elusive presence’

I’ll be brief because it’s late. 😛

As you probably know, both my meditation and reading lately have been about the presence of God…. and, often, the lack thereof. I believe that the topic of the elusiveness of God is dealt with badly among the Christians in my circle. In all the years that I’ve been a Christian (which admittedly hasn’t been a very, very long time), the “dry spells” of the Christian life have always been seen as a negative thing. While it may be true that these times in one’s life can hardly be described as pleasant, the associations that come with it are often misplaced. What are the common approaches?

1) Many times, those who are going through this period are seen as having done something wrong. They are somehow less spiritual, have sinned, or have “lost” their way (A most serious accusation if you believe that backslidding is something to watch out for. Perhaps this requires discernment since the way you ought to approach a backslidden believer would be different than your approach to a steadfast believer who does not sense God’s presence).

2) It is a season to be endured — a natural yet disdained part of the Christian walk. One that is believed to inevitably come but dreaded. Often advised to “protect” oneself against it, to be prevented or avoided as much as possible, hoping to survive it in order to come to the next season of refreshment which will also inevitably come to the steadfast.

3) These dry spells become a season to fight through. It is Satan’s attack, one that we must do everything in our power to change. Change our spiritual practices, pray more, frantically do something so that God may be felt again (I’m not denying that spiritual warfare is a reality and that Satan does attack you where you are vulnerable. At the same time, we should not take it to mean that ALL those “low” times of our lives are a result of the demonic).

Really, why does it have to be this way? While these approaches may have some merit in their own way, would it not be good to see these times as part of the ambiguous relationship between God on man? God comes and he goes. We do not control him, but we continue to call. The silence is the breath before a new sentence. It is the long-awaited pause before an exclamation mark. The absence of God is manifold with profundities and is perhaps the most powerful experience God gives us because it allows for faith to be tested. The recognition of God’s absence is actually a confession of faith for it requires us to remember that God was once present in our lives. In that acknowledgment, we crave for his return. We know him greater through the time when he is hidden and taken away from us as one parched knows water through thirst in a way that was not appreciated when he had it in abundance (Terrien, The Elusive Presence, 311).

Is this not a spiritual experience? We would do a grievous ill to turn something that can be powerful and make it to something that is detestable and feared. Jesus’ cry to the Father on the cross, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46) resounds with mystery, pain, and bewilderment. It is strikingly profound when one considers that the union with God that Jesus maintained throughout his life was now disrupted, wrenched from him by the Father’s will. But, reader, to stop there would be a crime. The Jesus who died on the cross apart from his Heavenly Father would also rise to a new union with God and would be ascend to be at his right hand. Who’s to say that it’s not worth it?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame….
You are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God….
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.”

– Psalm 22:1-5, 9-10, 22-24

And now, I have stayed up and have written far more than I intended. Goodnight. 🙂

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I should start making it a habit to write while I’m inspired. But in those moments, I’m always doing something else and forget entirely. 😛

God continues to speak to me in strange ways. Through a word of a friend, through the pages of a book, through a sudden quieting of my heart, through pleasant and unexpected blessings, through the beauty of the world in which I live… This week has been a strange one, to say the least, and I’ve been contemplating on the presence of God. What is it like and what can I compare it to? It is like the thundershower on a summer’s day that comes suddenly and vanishes as quickly as it came. It is like the soft and gentle breeze on an otherwise stagnant day that you feel on your face as you are walking along the way. It is like the pleasure of an unexpected phone call from that friend with whom you talk more infrequently than you ought. It is like having a few words jump out at you from a text and speaking into your life situation…

Obviously, these are merely comparisons, and by their nature inadequate. And yet it is an attempt to describe to you the dynamics of the relationship of Creator and creature. The finiteness of man is such that the presence of God, though everywhere, is not easily captured –that is, comprehended — by men. Perhaps this shows that there is something to be said about the Divine reveling himself to us. This is a quote from a book I’m reading which is profound even if you do not happen to agree with the specifics:

“The feature of divine disruption is typical of all literary genres in all periods of biblical history. It appears in the primeval legenda (e.g., Noah, Gen 6:13), in the patriarchal saga of epiphanic visitations (e.g., Abraham, Gen 12:1 ff.), in the national epic of theophanies to Moses (e.g., Exod 3:1 ff.), in the visions of the great prophets (e.g., Amos, 7:15), in the psalms (e.g., Ps. 139:7), in Job’s pleas (e.g., 23:3 ff.), in the Jobian theophany from the whirlwind (Job 38:1 ff.), and in the synoptic traditions on the appearances of the risen Lord (e.g., Mark 16:11 et par). Biblical man is always ‘surprised by God.'” (The Elusive Presence, S. Terrien, 28).

The way that God reveals himself to me is not always expected and timely. Do you ever go through periods of time where you seek God in great earnestness only to be greeted with silence? It is quite possibly one of the most frustrating things to endure. We always want God to be found on our own time and way. But God so rarely works that way. He hides his presence for a time. but then, he shows up. Perhaps it is in that tension of silence and presence that God’s words to you become profound, and we are able to receive it with gratitude. Perhaps he is teaching us that the God who is creator of all cannot be manipulated by men. Perhaps he is waiting to see if we are listening…

“He [Elijah] entered a cave there and spent the night. Then the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.’ Then He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the LORD’s presence.’ At that moment, the LORD passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave…” (1 Kings 19:9-13)

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