Walking our Faith: ‘Christ in our lives feels as real as the warmth of sunshine on our face’ (Column)
In the early morning hours, my father pulled into the empty parking lot of a shopping center near home. He’d finished another 12-hour shift at the post office, he was exhausted, close to retirement, years of working every available hour of overtime etched in his bloodshot eyes. Still, for some reason that morning he felt compelled to write on a few sheets of paper a testimony of how he had come into a relationship with Christ. And then he went home and went to bed.
A priest once remarked that we ask, ‘where is God?’ and the answer is that God is always present, but not our ability to perceive him. Why is that? I wondered. I pictured this barrier as a cloud existing between us and God. I believe on that night my father broke through and found God’s loving presence. But I never have, and so I wanted to explore what is necessary to have a real experience of God.
On the phone with Mom, she tells me she spends one hour each day sitting in prayerful mediation. She repeats the name of Jesus over and over, and as her mind empties she feels God’s presence. When I tried this my results were not as effective. First I sat on the couch. When that didn’t work, I stretched out. Finally, I went to bed and put a pillow over my face to block out light and sound. Still, God remained elusive. After an hour I got up, rested but frustrated.
Recently, a knitting group friend asked if a degree in theology was part of my background for writing this column. I replied no, but I wish I had one. That was the premise I’d started this column, that our relationship with God evolves over a lifetime, but first a long road of knowledge gathering must be traveled. Then as I thought of my father’s experience, I had an epiphany: It isn’t about our heads, it’s our hearts. There is no journey, only an acceptance that God is already with us.
When we break through the cloud of unknowing, we find God always present, always loving us, and the relationship between God and us is inseparable, never broken, always available. The only thing which keeps us from that relationship is our decision to accept or reject it.
The definition of the word, ‘epiphany’ is ‘manifestation of Christ.’ I believe that is the experience we are seeking. Christ in our lives feels as real as the warmth of sunshine on our face.
The concept of God is too grand when we are presented with God as alpha and omega, the beginning and end of time, universe, existence. How can we find purpose for such an abstract concept in our daily lives? How can the Creator of All Things be expected to understand a broken heart, or the disappointment of a job lost?
Is that why it was necessary for God to become man in the form of Jesus Christ? Not because he couldn’t understand us, as our creator we had the promise that he not only knew us before we were born, but that we were made in his image. He tells us that he numbers the hairs on our head. That he goes before us and behind us, that he loves us so dearly that he sends a Holy Spirit who prays on our behalf when our pain is so great we no longer have words.
No, it seems that Christ came not to meet us, but so that we could meet him. The Alpha and Omega is no longer as distant as the stars, but becomes human so we can hear his voice, gaze into his eyes, touch his face. He cries when our loved one dies. He sits at our table and provides life-giving bread and wine and feeds us.
I will spend my life pursuing God, and discovering my writer’s voice, so I can share this journey. But as I reflect on the experience of my father and mother, I understand those pursuits will not achieve what my parents have already found, and what God wants most: that we experience his real presence. He is already here, we must only open our hearts to receive him.
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