Tumbling in the Sand
The confirmation project for our last year confirmation student(s) is to work with a mentor to answer and present their own personal answer to one of several proposed questions as they and the mentor talk about life and faith and being church together. In a series of newsletter articles, I’m inviting the congregation to also consider the questions posed to our confirmands and I am “answering” the questions one at a time in an attempt to invite further conversation. The question for this month is: Where do you see God in your every day life?
This question is often too easily answered, “everywhere.”
Don’t get me wrong, it is true to say that. Meister Eckhart, an important medieval theologian, said, in essence, that all of creation is of God—that you and everything in the world and the whole of creation only exist because God is continually emptying out God’s self into creation. You are the infinite generosity of God being manifest as you. Potentially mind blowing stuff, to be sure, and perhaps a bit on the edge of mystical and neoplatonic—but, still a valuable way to look at the world: God is not absent but intimately present in all creation. Like an artist, pouring out herself into her painting or sculpture or music, God is ever present creating in the world, calling forth beauty, creativity, order and life from the mediums of dust, chaos, nothingness and God’s own breath.
The challenge comes not in acknowledging that God is everywhere, but rather in the practice of seeing God and living into that with my life. It’s easy to say that God is everywhere. It’s a lot harder to remember that and notice that when I’m drinking coffee in the morning or pumping gas in the car or dealing with someone who has cut me off in traffic or sitting at my desk at work or hearing about yet another atrocity on the news.
So, maybe the better question is not where do I see God in my everyday life, but how do I see God in my everyday life?
And, the best answer I can give to that is: practice. Practice looking for God.
And I start with what I know. I know that Jesus is the true revelation of God. So, I have to ask: what does Jesus do? Who was Jesus? Where does Jesus show up?
Jesus heals people. Jesus cares for children. Jesus cries. Jesus eats with friends. Jesus gets in trouble with his parents. Jesus goes to weddings. Jesus washes his disciples feet. Jesus got angry at injustice. Jesus was a teacher. Jesus was a healer. Jesus was a friend. Jesus was a miracle worker. Jesus was a homeless guy. Jesus was a refugee. Jesus was a man executed by the state. Jesus showed up at meals—in bread and wine. Jesus showed up on the journey (the road to Emmaus). Jesus showed up when the disciples gathered together. Jesus showed up on the beach with some fish.
So, what things, situations and people in my life are like those times, experiences, and places where Jesus showed up? And what if I paused when those moments came up and looked for God?
I do try to do this, by the way. And it helps, when I remember. I will pause when I’m riding the train, for instance, or when I’m in the grocery store, and look around me at the people gathered there, focusing, just for a moment on one or all of them as the infinite generosity of God or as part of the body of Christ or just even a beloved child of God. And my heart warms and swells a bit—knowing, somehow, that God is there. (Seriously, I dare you to pause one day and look at someone near you and think to yourself, “They are loved by God.” Think what it means to you to be loved and to love. Imagine a love greater than any you’ve ever felt and imagine that person being a bit of the embodiment of that love. It will take a little while, but trust me, it’ll change you.)
I think that sometimes when I’m looking for God, I’m hoping for something big and obvious and glorious. But, I think more often I catch glimpses of God playing hide and seek with me in the ordinary. In the people that surround me. In the beauty of creation (consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field … Jesus reminds us). In things that sustain life (even beeping hospital machines have come to remind me of God’s sustaining goodness).
But, the thing is, I have learned that the only way I actually see God there is to practice seeing God there — I have to actually look for God there. But, when I actually do look, it’s the most remarkable thing: God is already there, having found me and just waiting for me to notice.