Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Presence of God

If we establish that God is present and that He is up to something, the next question that's valuable for our asking is: how? How is God present?

By this, I do not mean to ask, "By what metaphysical principle is the reality and presence of God established?" That's not the question at all. Rather, the question we must ask in asking how God is present is to ask how God manifests Himself among us. What is He like? 

Many of us might answer this question by saying He's...God. He's God-like. He is the infinite being of the universe, the Creator of all Creation, He's...God. We've got one image in our heads of "how" He is, what He's like, and it's fairly stagnant. 

But the God of wild imagination who created the entire universe and even chose you is no stagnant being, not by a long shot. In the Scriptures, we are given a full range of His emotion, from tremendous joy to deep anguish to burning anger to inconsolable grief, and above all of these things, love. 

And yet, somehow, most of us don't think of God as dynamic at all, and we certainly don't think of Him as emotionally, actively, tenderly, presently loving

What if we did?

The presence of God is not a rational-functional construct, the way that we know a chair is present and can sit in it. The presence of God is always relational, and that means that if we are going to make claims that our God is present among us, we must know what it's like to interact with Him, to engage with Him, to encounter Him. Yet less and less are Christians comfortable or confident in saying what God is like. 

We make decisions very quickly about other persons. Within just a few seconds of meeting someone, we know whether we like them or not. We pick up on dominant characteristics of their personality. We even use these characteristics to describe them. He's shy. She's chatty. He's a bit of a prude. She's got a good sense of humor. Give us five minutes with nearly anyone on the planet, and we'll be able to talk about what it's like to be in the room with them. 

Yet most of us spend our entire lives calling ourselves Christians and could not say one meaningful thing about what it's like to be in the room with God.

Imagine if we let ourselves experience the full relational presence of Him, the very depth of His being. Imagine what it would do to your relationship to God if you heard Him laugh, bursting with joy at some incredible delight that the two of you share. Or even, gasp, a good joke. Imagine if you saw the tears well up in His eyes when you started to cry. Imagine pouring out your heart to Him and seeing Him hurt with you, seeing Him ache at the injustices of the world. Imagine telling Him how much someone hurt you and watching Him get angry. 

Imagine walking into the presence of God and being picked up and tossed lightly into the air before He brings you back down in the warm, loving embrace of a Father. Imagine Him taking your little scribbles and hanging them on the refrigerator. Imagine hearing Him shout your name at your baseball game or dance recital or graduation, cheering you on from the sidelines.

Imagine how it would change the way that you love God if you really knew Him, if at any given time, you could describe what it's like to be in the room with Him. 

This is what it's supposed to be like. This is what God's been trying to tell us about Himself. Of all the things that He reveals in the Scriptures, I think sometimes the least important one of all is that He's God. I think He cares far more that you know His heart, not His status; His name, not His title; His presence, not His power. 

So how is God present in your life? Not "metaphysically, how is the presence of God possible?" but what is He like? No, really...what is He like?

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