by Marjorie George
I was aware of the fog as I got into my car and started out for church last Sunday morning, but it didn’t appear to be treacherous. Until I got onto the expressway. There, on the elevated roads, the wispy fog became increasingly dense; cars in front of me began to disappear into a snow bank. I hoped they had kept moving. Then, at the top of a fly-over ramp connecting one expressway to another, the grey-white fog closed in around me. The familiar streets below to my left and my right had been swiped with white-out, and I could see only a car length in front of me. It was the definition of eerie; a silent shroud surrounding me. A space the size of my car, with me in it, had been carved out of the middle of a giant cotton ball.
There was a moment of sheer panic, and then the revelation: this is what it feels like to be utterly in the presence of God, stripped to some sort of bare essentialness. Brian McLaren calls it “naked spirituality.” It was a moment of being “here” and nowhere else with nothing else.
“Here” is one of the 12 words McLaren explores in his book Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words, the book that we just happen to be exploring in our Sunday morning life groups. I might not have made the connection between that word and my sojourn into the fog had I not just read the chapter on “here” the day before.
“Here” says McLaren, and I am paraphrasing, is where I am every moment of every day. I am not elsewhere at this moment; I am here, whether or not I want to be. I am here standing in the kitchen stirring this spaghetti sauce, here in this boring meeting wishing it were over, here sitting on the bleachers enjoying a Little League baseball game.
And here is God. Wherever I am, there God is. Whatever I am doing, God is doing with me. What is often missing is our recognition of that. The word “here,” says McLaren, is our acknowledgement of God’s presence. In situating ourselves as being “here,” we bring to our awareness that with us is the One whom who know and the One who transcends all our knowing, the One who knows us whether or not we wish to be known. “I’m here, God,” says I am present, willing to be found by him. “And you are here with me,” is not merely some trite recitation, but a putting-on of the presence of God, settling in, leaning against the certainty of God’s “here-ness” with me in this situation. I am stripped of all the pretense, all that brought me here, all that might follow this moment. For right now, I am here, present to the Presence of the Holy One.
My awareness of God does not awaken him – for he is always, already present – it awakens me. “Oh, yes, that’s right, God is here,” I say as the dentist leans into my open mouth with the whirring drill, or as I walk into the lawyer’s office to sign papers. When I have to make a decision, or when I have to react to a decision that was made for me, I recollect — I experience again — that “God is here.” When I am squirming uncomfortably in the midst of some confrontation or when I am contentedly at home in myself, I recollect that “God is here.” When I can see where the road is going, or have no idea in the midst of the fog, I recollect that “God is here.”
I do not recommend going out into the highways and byways seeking deep fog in order to have a mystical experiences of the presence of God. Had I known what I was driving into last Sunday, I probably would have stayed home. Or taken another route. But there I was, and there God was, and we eventually got to church.
May our prayer always be: Here I am, God; and here you are; Here we are together. Help me to be present to that.
Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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