Ever wonder, where is God in all this?
- When your best effort towards something important fails
- You have a sense of being opposed
- You experience aching loneliness
- Inflation & Global Recession threaten your financial stability
- Unthinkable violence towards innocent children and political gridlock
- Murderous racism yet again
- Sovereign nation-states besieged and yet still fighting
When painful circumstances occur, and even seem to “pile on”, we can find ourselves asking, Where is God in all this?” Maybe we ask with an attitude of curiosity and hope, or possibly through despair and resignation. How long, O Lord? Our prolonged grief is real.
Earlier this week, I joined some 34,000 people for the annual Bolder Boulder 10K, which hasn’t happened in 3 years. We passed many costumes along the racecourse. Brides, bacon (not a typo), tutus, Captain Jack Sparrow, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Winnie the Pooh and his entourage, and even a rainbow and pot of gold. Quite a scene!
But I especially appreciated one: a red and white striped shirt and matching beanie. A simple outfit, but hilarious and clever. The man was dressed as Waldo. Maybe you remember the books? In the Where's Waldo series of books, each illustration invited a search through complex images, looking for Waldo peeking out from behind a chair, or walking plainly along the street. Page after page challenged the reader to pattern recognition, patience, and some visual luck to finally find Waldo, always dressed in his striped shirt and beanie, in the sea of faces. It was fun and absorbing!
When the Ignatian practice of Daily Examen was first introduced to me, it was compared to the work involved in this childhood game of finding Waldo. In Examen, we prayerfully review the events of our day searching for glimpses of God… in a conversation, a provision, or even the kindness of a stranger.
It was a helpful comparison; easily understood. We can assume God is always, always, ALWAYS on the page…. Though we might not have initially noticed, keep searching; you’ll eventually find Him.
Today I’ve been wondering if asking Where is God in all this might actually be the wrong question at times. A very honest and human one, no doubt… but I wonder if there’s another question?
I have been wondering about God’s perspective. What does God see in my days? Might God be asking me, as he did Adam and Eve, Where are you?
And what is my answer? Today, at least, I notice that my answer is… Distracted. Worried. Self-reliant. Overwhelmed.
I’ve found the surest way to care for my soul whether in good times or in pain is to embrace silence and a form of prayer in which, like the psalmist, I still and quiet my soul.
My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 131 A song of ascents. Of David.
What question might God be asking you today?
No matter the circumstances, God is not a long way off. Nor are you. Simply turn. Re-turn. Turn again. Tell God, I’m here. Learn to rest in God’s presence; in those unforced rhythms of grace. Learn to Make Room.
You may be wondering, If you embrace silence, will you lose your activist edge? Is it too passive? Not solution-focused? Will you stop caring about the very real needs in your life and in our world? There has never been a time when it mattered more for us to fully engage.
It will not. You will not. This silent assent (permission-giving) opens you up at a level below words to the God who will speak, will lead, and will intervene. Silent prayer re-anchors your activism to God’s work in this world, so you don't dare yank that yoke back onto your own shoulders. It is too heavy for you; you do not know enough about which way to go. Embrace humility.
Can you accept the paradox of letting go while staying wildly present to the many many many priorities and concerns long enough to make room for yieldedness and surrender?
Only from that place of intimacy can we be uniquely guided and led and empowered and transformed into Jesus’s character as we engage with the challenges of our day, and our days.
Please engage. Listen deeply. Enter the pain. Enter the Presence.
Answer God’s question, Where are you? with your own, I’m here.
From quietness of soul and deep surrender, God may well invite you into specific areas of action. If so, consider it pure joy!
And as Jesus’ mother Mary instructed the disciples in John 2, I offer this:
Do whatever he tells you to do.
A Blessing for your Day:
"This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.”
— John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between us