Saturday, September 17, 2005

The right environment

One of the biggest things I've been struggling with lately is that I still don't feel God's presence on a minute-to-minute basis...or at all, really. After I had my big realization in July that I could be a logical, reasonable person and still believe in God I kind of expected it all to instantaneously fall into place, for the credits to start rolling as the camera panned over a shot of me smiling peacefully while reading the Bible.

But that hasn't happened, and I've spent a lot of time wondering why.

First of all, I've realized that going from non-belief to belief is not an instantaneous event. Rather than being struck by spiritual lightning and falling to your knees, shouting, "I now believe!" I've come to understand that for most people it's more of a gradual process, littered with setbacks and ups and downs. I can accept that and it helps keep me focused on this process.

But, most importantly, I also have to consider my environment. If there is a God there are definitely certain environments that are more conducive to you feeling his presence. For example, sitting in unexpected traffic is certainly less conducive to getting in touch with God than, say, camping in the Rocky Mountains.

I need to continue to remind myself that, even for those who have a firm belief in God, there are times and places that are much more conducive to experiencing his presence than others. And my cluttered, chaotic house with a teething baby who hates to sleep is not one of those places.

Fairly frequently I catch myself thinking, "Come on, if God existed I would surely feel his presence by now. This can't be real." But then again, I'm not sure if I'm really giving him a chance here. Perhaps my living room where SportsCenter is turned up so that it can be heard over my baby banging a wooden toy on the coffee table is not the environment where I'm most likely to have my first deep understanding of God.


At September 23, 2005 3:48 PM, Blogger jb said...

What are you expecting God to feel like? Your feelings might be misleading. Faith, hope, and love are not feelings though sometimes they might be accompanied by them.

I think that what most people mean when they say that they feel God is that they experience a longing and great love for a being greater than themselves. Someone might be blessed with a spiritual gift of contemplation or speaking in tongues or something like that but for your average believer something like that will probably never happen.

You have already shown that you have this longing for something greater. Otherwise, why would you want to explore these deep issues?

Moreover, Christ says that whoever loves the least of my brethen has loved me. You may have come across God and not have even known it.

Whatever is good, whatever is noble, whatever is lovable has received that character from the one that bestows those gifts. And since nothing can give what it does not have, God must possess all these characteristics in a special way. St. Paul even goes so far as to say, "I live now, not I, but Christ within me." As if to say, everything you see and love about me is not due to me but to Christ within me.

At September 23, 2005 4:41 PM, Blogger jb said...

I hope I didn't give the impression that I disagree with a lot of what you are saying. I think that there are definitely times and places where God is more easily observed that others.

Much of the great architecture of the medieval and renaissance age is meant to do precisely what you are talking about—raise your mind and your heart to a higher being.

At September 23, 2005 7:41 PM, Anonymous Steve G said...

I have been wanting to comment on this for a while. I think you are again making a very astute observation about the right environement being conducive to certain types of feeling, contemplation and prayer, but.....the very situation you find yourself in are conducive to another very wonderful source of prayer and feeling.

The 'little way of St. Teresa of Liseaux' (sp?) would have our every little action be a prayer. The diapers we change, the patients we show to spouse or childe (when we'd rather holler), the midnight feedings, etc., etc.

These can all be our prayers as well. They are the very act of following the selfless example of Christ in dying to ourselves. He did it in a big way all at once. We can do it in a million small ways by making every act a sacrifice of love where we give ourselves away a bit at a time and die to our
selfishness. If you view your daily activities in that way, they can indeed be a powerful prayer, and create powerful feelings of love and charity in our everyday life.

At September 23, 2005 7:45 PM, Anonymous Steve G said...

I'd like to add more, but I have my own little one's I need to give myself to, so time is limited. I suggest you add St. Therese of Lisieux 'Story of a Soul' to your reading list and maybe even jump it ahead of some of the others. I think it has a very powerful message that you are in need of.
Story of a Soul


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