Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hidden Presence

I began my spiritual direction training last week, in a program rooted in contemplative Ignatian Spirituality and housed (literally) within a Jesuit center.

Finding God in all things is at the core of Ignatius of Loyola's teachings--growing our awareness of God's presence and movement in everyone, every place, everything. Maybe even especially when God seems hidden or absent altogether.

How often do I accept God's absence in any given day or event?
No, not with my words. I don't think it's ever as explicitly admitted as that. "Oh, yes. Well, God is absent today."No, it's more of a disregard, a lack of attention given to the reality of Immanuel, of 'God with us.'
But how often do we miss God's subtle presence, subtle workings in and among us?

On the thirteenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, and on the morning after President Obama's address to the U.S. people regarding military strikes against ISIS, we must ask: Where is God?

This is not a question for our heads to answer.
It's not even a question for our heads to ask.

The question of finding God in all things requires a deeper attention, a greater awareness than our minds can give us. It is, ultimately and essentially, a matter of the heart.
Growing our awareness of God's subtle presence and workings in all things is a spiritual undertaking.

As I wrote in an earlier post, and as I have come to trust, we do not have to find God.
We do not have to dig into the cold, hard earth, as if God is buried below. We do not have to work our fingers to the bone. We do not have to kick and scream (though we may) in order to grab God's attention.

We already have God's attention. But does God have ours?

"God's going to get our attention" is so often preached from pulpits in an almost threatening manner, that God is going to demand our gaze, jerk our heads around because of some disaster, tragedy or worldwide panic.

But I don't think this is how God moves. I know God to be much more subtle.
All that is required for God to get our attention is for us to remove own distractions, our own running around, even our efforts to search for God.
The only thing we must do to find God--or for God to find us--is simply allow ourselves to be open to God's presence and action in our lives and our world.

I admit, it's hard for me--to still myself; to quiet my mind from a constant stream of internal dialogue, from the barrage of information overload available to me 24/7; to move from my head to my heart; to center myself and let go of all of the thoughts that threaten to overwhelm me.

This does not mean that we dismiss the brutal violence and warfare happening all over the globe, or that we downplay the suffering we may be experiencing in our own lives.

In spite of all this, in the face of our suffering and pain and confusion and distress, God finds us.

All that is required of us is to be still, to sink down deep inside ourselves, and to trust that God is there.

God can be found where God has always been--inside each of us.

Can we allow the layers to be peeled back enough to catch a glimpse of God? Can we let go of those things that keep us moving, keep us running, keep us from being in the presence of God?

I agree with the apostle Paul on this one:  "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-9)

Many times it seems we are separated from God. Wholly and completely cut off from the goodness and love of God. That God has removed God's Self and Spirit from us.

Buildings fall. So many thousands of lives are lost. Evil and fear run rampant. Hatred and violence are strong.

Does this mean that God is not with us? That God has abandoned us to our fate? That God has left us, reeling and hopeless in Divine absence?

As I stated before, God's presence is so often subtle. It would seem God is gone. It would seem impossible, insensitive even to suggest that God can be found in all things.

Where might we find God if we were to allow for that possibility?

In my seeking, I have found God. I have found God to be hidden sometimes, but not absent. I have found God in unexpected places, working in mysterious ways. I have found God to be gentle, not ruthless and hard to please. I have found God in joy and suffering.

I keep my eyes and ears and heart open for Immanuel's stirrings--within my own spirit and within God's own Creation, once pronounced to be "very good."

Stop. Listen. Feel. Wait. Be still. Be silent. God is here.

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