Saturday, May 14, 2005

Lazy Blog and the Presence of God

I wrote this some time ago in one of my students' blogs. It has been edited to achieve anonymity:

Hi X,

A kay-poh teacher here. By right I should not be commenting on such things, since I am supposed to be a 'secular' educator. Still:

The part about the lack of social acceptance in church is something that I empathize with totally: throughout the years, I attended both protestant and catholic churches, and joined several fellowship groups. But though I made a few close friends, deep inside, I know that I am always an outsider, and indeed, I am never accepted as a 'proper Christian'. But my reasons for this are rather different from yours.

My pariah status is due basically to my heretical beliefs. Among other things, I do not accept eternal damnation and I accept that God is present in religions other than Christianity (that happened to be the catholic teaching too). That alienated me from my Christian friends.

BUT the 'presence of God' is never something that I lack. From the time I first read the Bible at 12, the presence was there and is here. Indeed, it is the ONLY reason I remain Christian at all or pray or go to a catholic mass; after all I certainly do not get social solace from folks who potentially view me as a perverse believer.

Based on my own experience, I would like to offer a few comments. However be forewarned that you must be prepared to hear some strange things--things people don't usually hear in church (or anywhere else). I do not intend to 'prove' these things, but offer these points for your consideration:

1) The presence of God is not a static or uniform experience. Instead it is a dynamic one with infinite variety: It can range from a still, small voice, or even just a peaceful silence, to a roaring fire and earthquake. And perhaps few appreciate that the Presence can also be painful, dark and immeasurably dry--the presence of the crucified Christ, as some may term it.

As such, it is always unwise to think you have never experienced God. You may well have (and indeed, probably have), but perhaps your wisdom is still not deep enough, nor experience wide enough, to recognize it. God need not always come in glory or in a predictable fashion. Indeed, if you read your Bible carefully, He usually does not.

2) The experience of God deepens over a lifetime of prayer. It does not always begin with a burning bush and overwhelming light. It can begin with little more than faith, and perhaps, agony, doubt and darkness. Like yours.

But what is the reason for this, you may ask? Is not God omnipotent, so why can't he just send an angel or two to entertain you for once? Why is he so demanding? If he really exists, why can't he simply CONVINCE you?

3) It may sound strange to you. But have you ever considered that our whole being, including our stubborn BODIES, must be transformed in many ways before the presence of God can be deepened and made clear and intense? The Biblical understanding of man is that of a soul, spirit, mind and body--all inter-connected. To ask to 'feel' God is to ask Him to pour down his divine Fire and Spirit into you, a poor mortal vessel. Do you suppose that no preparation and training is needed? If you can run your 2.4 in 11 minutes, and then wish to lower it to 8 minutes in 1 week, what are your chances of success?

4) I know that in the charismatic denominations, there is, for both good and bad, an impatience to feel God and speak in tongues etc. Obviously that means that people who apparently do not feel anything simply pretend to feel something, or give up. And even for those who feel something, they are often not sure whether they are imagining it.

Perhaps it would be wiser not to raise people's expectations (fire, glory, hallelujah etc.), but tell them bluntly that God often prepares our being in darkness, dryness and through his apparent absence. Yet in that darkness, his Fire actually works in secret. Man's being is more complex than what materialistic science describes it to be and we have many hidden mansions. God knows them all and works in them all. On our part, we need to have faith, and patience.

5) Some individuals are naturally able to 'feel' or 'see' God and other supernatural entities (angels, devils, maybe some other things) without much prior preparation. Perhaps some of your friends are like that. But speaking from my own personal experience, such gifts of vision and prophecy come with a price. 'To him whom much is given, much will be expected'. Such folks may skip the stage of preparation, but the cross will come to them by some other way.

After all, their very closeness to God makes intense demands on their own beings, body, mind and soul. Just read about the Biblical prophets. You ask to 'feel' God deeply, but remember that with the permanent changes wrought in your mind and body, once you start experiencing Him intensely you cannot easily turn back.

6) Not to mention that such sensitive folks are generally alienated and to some extent estranged from their fellow men. Again think about what happened to the Biblical prophets and indeed, Christ Himself. To enter into a direct fiery relationship with God and His Energy, is to see the whole world in a very different light. The result of that is usually to be thought of as a madman. Or be forced to put on a mask, and sweep all essentials beneath that mask.

All in all, the above are some mad words that I hope may let you see one essential point:

Perhaps you should not ask why God is so unkind to seemingly withhold His presence from you, but whether, deep inside, you are sincerely willing to pay the price for his greater revelation. Most people, by the way, are not. God knows that and grants their wish.

His price includes dryness, darkness, apparent absence and misery. Also, the prospect of permanent changes in your mind, body and soul. And then, patience is essential. On top of that, once the Fire of God does truly burn in a special way in your heart and mind, you may become estranged from most of your fellow men.

So how deep do you want to go? To seek God is not to fiddle with mere intellectual questions, but to be willing to be transformed--permanently--in the divine fire.

If something in you calls sincerely for God, and you are willing to pay the price, then you will certainly and eventually not be disappointed.