Tuesday, November 8, 2011

God's Not Far

"Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being.'" - Paul in the Areopagus.

I was meeting with a group of guys yesterday. A ragamuffin bunch. We were sharing our hurts and struggles, and then we were asked to share something we were grateful for. I really couldn't think of anything better than having such a group to meet with at the moment, so I said I was grateful for the group, truly engratiating myself to everyone. I like to be liked.

But then someone, who had shared that he was really struggling asked to pass. We continued sharing and I thought that there had to be something he could be grateful for. "How about oxygen?" I thought.

We take so much for granted, especially when life has us down. I know that when I'm feeling down, I walk around with my personal cloud of grumpiness, trying to fire off lightning bolts at anyone who says something totally irritating like, "You should be grateful for oxygen!" "Smite him cloud!"

But even in our worst times, those times when we can't see anything good, we have a God who is near.

I've always found Paul's words above really fascinating. Couched in his address in the Areopagus about the altar to The Unknown God, it's a really bold statement he makes. He's basically saying, "In all your searching, all this striving, all these attempts at religion, there is a God who is near, 'He's not far from any of us.' This is the God that your Greek philosophers said, 'In him we live and move and have our being.'"

We have a God who is close. And I can't seem to get this truth into my atrophied soul. No matter how much I say it, no matter how many times and ways I hear David express "dwelling in God's house", I still think of God sort of "out there somewhere," or "up there somewhere." (Of course rarely do I think of him in the ground as I associate that with Satan's domain of darkness. I've been caving and can attest to this first-hand.)

So I've been letting this idea bang around in my head for sometime now. In fact, I'm almost positive I've blogged this before. (My blog is getting so old that it's forgetting things.)

But I think that besides actually believing that God loves us, perhaps the second most difficult thing we humans are challenged with is that God wants to dwell with us and in us.

That's also why I'm thinking of buying a crystal and a Volkswagon mini-van and travelling the country. Because we have something in common with those crazed new-agers that lurk behind every bush, just waiting to pounce on us conservative Presbyterians and unleash all kinds of voodoo and mumbo-jumbo wack talk about the divinity within.

Don't we have divinity within too? It's not us, but in a sense, now that we're united with Christ it is us. We're united with God. I hear this kind of thinking got Henri Nouwen in trouble, but perhaps its less risky than we think and less risky than thinking of God out there and up there somewhere, or in our pet ferret Huey.

So even on our worst days, in our worst struggles, even when we're running straight away from God, we have a "near God." Maybe this can help us be grateful and hopeful.

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