Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Asking myself: How can we find God?

Since my one word this year is "ask," I'm planning to reflect my way through 52 "Ultimate Questions" from Teresa Blythe's 50 Ways to Pray — with one question per week. That's the book on my kitchen table, which makes a dandy but chilly place to pray in the wee hours. If you'd like to join me, I'll be posting the question for the upcoming week on Monday and my reflections some time during the week. I'm a little late this week. Blythe recommends finding a quiet space for about 30 minutes to sit with the question, journaling your thoughts if that works; it did for me. Below, I've transcribed my own journal entries from the last couple of days. The first question is a 2fer:

How can we find God? How does God find us?

Since I believe God is all around me and in me, in the fibers of my being, my immediate response to the first part of the question is that finding God should be as easy as taking a moment to notice Him. He's not far from us (verse ref.). But reality aside, there's the matter of experiencing as a confirmation that I've found Him. To know Him. To be known by Him. I think this might be what the question is really getting at.

I'm drawn to this question because I'm drawn to God. I want to find Him. I wan to be close to Him and to be known by Him, to be found in Him. But the question is also a little disturbing because there's no pat answer. There are simple answers, but no exhaustive, step-by-step one-size-fits-all guaranteed method to finding God. I know books have been written promising just such a method. I guess I mean the nature of God, both fixed, ancient, unchanging and dynamic- subjectively experienced in millions of unique humans all created in His image... That should be liberating actually, but it's a little disturbing because it means the onus is on me, one of those unique individuals to really suss out God in my own life. And forgive the analogy that follows, but like a pig snuffing about for truffles in the detritus of a forest. It takes effort and keen senses.

And other times it doesn't. There are those mercy moments when I find myself with the disposition, the attitude of openness and willingness, playfulness even. I don't make myself this way, but sometimes I'm game to wrestle with a strange visitor in the night (or 4:30 a.m. as was the case when I wrote this). Then He finds me.

This is all very abstract. If someone really, genuinely was asking me how to find God, I know my answer would be more pragmatic. I'd suggest the person make a space and a time for quiet. Then, ask God aloud or in her head to reveal Himself. The space, I might suggest, could be a comfy chair or the solitude of a locked car or in the shower, with the bathroom door locked. It might be a walk in the woods or within the plain sight anonymity of a bustling crowd. I'd encourage the seeker to find a spot that makes them feel happy and free. Then, just listen.

If all they encountered was silence, I'd suggest opening the Bible, but I'd have a hard time picking the "correct" passage. For been-around-the-block Christians, I'd recommend choosing verses or passages they already like or have highlighted or have found intriguing, and then chew on the words for a while. My preference is to read it aloud slowly and hover over words that spark interest...perhaps allowing personal prayer to grow from the sparkly parts.

If he or she were a disgruntled, wounded or disheartened Christian, I might not suggest the Bible because of the way it can trigger other voices that mask God's. Voices from the past that to know, but who are not God. Instead, I'd tell the seeker to spend time doing something that brings her joy—not entertainment or distraction, but an activity that requires intention. Once deep into that enjoyable thing, the seeker could consider that God invented that activity with her in mind. It's a gentle, endearing way to remember God without so much baggage.

I obviously believe God is "findable." He wants to be found. But sometimes our sense of Him is dull or blocked. I believe He is merciful and compassionate to those seek Him. So, when I'm feeling the spiritual well has run dry, I sigh Jesus' name or utter a feeble prayer in an effort to find my lost connection with God. I think even weak little prayer move heaven and earth... and more importantly, they move me until a gradual shake down in my own heart's tectonic plates allows God in me to seep to the surface of my consciousness and until God around me soaks in and envelops and holds my heart and mind.

My response to the second half of the question can be found here. In the mean time, I would be tickled pink if one of my three readers would share their response to this question in the comment section or more privately via message.

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