“Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him when he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)
It is the task of the theologian is to undertake the intellectual mining of God’s omnipresence. The task of the disciple goes well beyond that. She is to press into this mystery in pursuit of God’s heartbeat, which although at times elusive, is completely discoverable. If the God of heaven and earth is, by definition, everywhere and equally present, then how do we make sense of this strange little passage in Isaiah quoted above?
Moreover, if God is so “present,” then why does God feel so “absent” oftentimes? Although forever present in our lives, closer than our very breath in fact, the God who loves us is a God who loves to hide. The same God to whom the Psalmist cries out “How long will you hide your face from me?”* is the same God who “hides us in the shadow of his wings”* and in whom we find our “hiding place.”*
Everyone loves to be sought out and pursued by another. And, like any lover, God too loves to be pursued. Says the young lover in the Song of Songs, “I sought whom my soul loves…”* It is actually a delightful characteristic of a God impossible to pin down in theological terms, that we benefit from the pursuit.
The chase is half the fun! I would point us to an idea: while God is indeed perfectly present in all places at all times (I dare you to think on that for awhile!), it is our actual experience of that Presence that becomes most formational for us. Once we sense the bosom of God pressed hard against our face, no amount of “explanation” will suffice. Instead, let us dive into the cloud of unknowing by means of an exercise; a lectio divina (sacred reading) of the above passage from Isaiah 55:6.
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- Preparations: Find somewhere quiet where, as much as possible, you can be without interruption.
- You may choose to have a Bible open to this verse on your lap or nearby. Better still; try to memorize it in order to minimize any possible distractions.
- Sit up, with your back straight. This position allows you to breathe deeply and slowly. Place your hands on your lap, palms down.
- Seek to quiet your mind from the busyness of your life.
- At first, take the word, “Presence,” and focus your thoughts directly upon that and nothing else. Right now, it is the only available thing to your mind.
- Breathe in and out slowly. Now, say the word silently each time you exhale. Do so again and again for as long as you need to become inwardly still.
- Purgatio: Say the Jesus Prayer three times with a generous pause between each time: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
- Lectio: Whether reading or reciting the verse, do so once, slowly and deliberately. It is just the beginning of prayer. Wait on it. Let it dance in your mind. Read or recite it again, repeating the process as many times as is necessary.
- Oratio: inwardly ask God to reveal God’s self to you. Invite the Spirit to illumine what portion of this reading is most needful for you right now. You are literally “praying the Scripture” or “praying with the Scripture.”
- Meditatio: This is when we are invited to digest the light being given. Interact with God’s leading. If you like, as a word, picture or idea comes, write it down in a journal for later reference. If a song comes, sing. If an image comes, sketch. If a poem, write. If nothing comes, simply enjoy these moments alone with God.
- Contemplatio: after sufficient time, something only your own soul will know, release the verse, your interactions with it, all expectations related to it and your very self, completely into the hands of God. You are one with the Great Mystery: Christ in you, the hope of glory.
- End with a short doxology such as “thanks be to God” or “Lord, you may now dismiss your servant in peace” or a simple “amen.”
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God is transcendent and ultimately outside our grasp. God is immanent and closer than our own skin. Don’t try to figure it out. Let us pursue this God who longs to be known. As we do, we will grow more comfortable in The Presence and be more at ease in our own presence. When we seek the God who is busily seeking us, our own face will become familiar and we will rest in spite of our own imperfections since we live them out in the vast, unprotected grace of God’s unending perfection.
“Reunited and it feels so good…”
Picture found here
*Psalm 13:1b; see also Psalm 89:46a (NRSV)
*Psalm 17:8b (NRSV)
*Psalm 32:7a; see also Psalm 27:5 (NRSV)
*Song of Solomon 3:1a (NRSV)