surely God is in this place

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In June of 2007, I resigned from the Elder Board of my local church, after having served one year of a three-year appointment. In my letter to the congregation, I wrote about the fact that I was embarking on a journey, but could provide little in terms of details about what that journey would entail. A year later, I began blogging about my experiences, both past and present. That first blog, which closed in October of 2011, was characterized by intense and brutal analysis of my own religious experience, accompanied by much cynicism and confusion. I liken that period from 2007 to 2011 to wandering in a desert. I was unsure of where I was going or how I would get there. It is curiously prescient that I used an image of dry bones in a desert on the “about” page of that blog, placing it there before I had any sense where my journey was leading.

dryBonesThough I questioned some of my long-held beliefs, at no time did my faith falter. In fact, my faith continued to gain strength through those difficult months as I struggled to figure out my answer to Jesus’ most important question: “What are you seeking?” There is evidence within that first blog that what I wanted, what I was seeking, was very slowly, over a period of many months, crystallizing out of the confusion. In 2009, I wrote, “I want to meet God, before I die.” That post marked a transition. In the middle of the desert, I found a road, and the road provided direction. I was not certain at the time, though, where it would take me. Subsequent to the discovery of a deep desire within, I stopped writing on that first blog, and started another.

The blog you are reading now, He bends down, recounts my experiences walking on that road out of the desert, a road that has had its own twists and turns, ups and downs. My search for God led me eventually to St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, which continue to play a large role in my life. The Exercises have helped me to rethink and reorient my life so that, as the Jesuits put it, I can “find God in all things and find all things in God.”

Now, as I walk through my routine “sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life,” I find that I am far more inclined than ever to notice God’s presence and activity in and around my life, so that, like Jacob, I can say wherever I am, “Surely, God is in this place.”

Two people get married after a long search for a soul mate, but they quickly discover that they will spend the rest of their lives continuing the search for each other. This is what intimacy is about. God has been like that for me. I have found Him, as I set out to do. But looking for and finding God is not anything like the search for a car that is parked who knows where in the parking lot of a large mall. Sooner or later, that search will end, with a great sigh of relief. The search for God is different. As with a spouse in a marriage relationship, God is someone who can be found, but for whom the search never ends.

The wedding day represents a transition from looking for that unknown, perfect one to searching the unknown within that known one. I have made a similar transition with God. I have found Him, yet I continue to search for Him. I found Him today, and I will search for Him tomorrow.

My initial purpose for writing this blog was to record the journey of my initial search for God. Having passed through the transition from searching to finding, that purpose no longer exists. Is a third blog in the works? I have discovered that writing is a very important, even essential, outlet for me. Most of my writing over the last several months, though, comprises entries in my prayer journal. It would be possible to make those entries public, but I see no reason to do so. They are always “streams of consciousness” that would likely be of little interest to others, since they represent the activity of God in the depths of my own soul, activities that are unique to me, and usually not generalizable to a wider audience. If you would really like to know what I write in my prayer journal, I invite you to take me out for lunch sometime.

Before I bid you adieu, I will end this final post with the Lord’s prayer, as I routinely pray it:

Our Father in heaven, not my Father, but our Father, we all come, to hallow your name.

May your Kingdom come. Not the kingdom of our church, or our culture, or our nation, or our society, or our civilization. Your Kingdom. May your Kingdom come and reign in, and around us, so that it displaces the stranglehold that other kingdoms have on us. May your Kingdom come, where love wins.

May your will be done on earth by us, even as it is done in heaven by those who serve you around your throne. Not my will. Not the will of my angry and defiant subconscious. Not the will of my government. Not the will of my culture. Not the will of a church. Not the will of a pastor. Not the will of peer pressure. Your will. And may your will be our will.

Give us this day our daily bread, that which we need for the sustenance of our souls. Don’t let us be satisfied with something that tastes or feels really, really good for a few minutes or a few hours. Give us what we need to be satisfied way down deep inside, where all the hurt and anger and disappointment and hunger seeks to deprive and starve us. Bread of life, feed your lambs.

Forgive us even as we have already forgiven others. People hurt us because they are hurting, just like we are. Let us all know how it feels to be forgiven by forgiving. Everyone. All the time. For everything.

Lead us not into temptation, those things that serve to draw us away from you. Help us want those things that take us toward you and reject those things that take us away from you. Give us a strong sense of deep satisfaction as we experience unity with you, so that we don’t want to be swayed by false things, by glitzy things that have no substance, by promises made by those who cannot keep them, by created things that subversively and ever so subtly take the place of the Creator. Deliver us from our gods and put us into the wounded hands of the Savior.

We pray these things because yours is the only Kingdom that matters. And you have the power to accomplish all that you desire and that we need. And, when you answer our prayer, your name is the only one that will be glorified.

Amen.