Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'd seen the anonymous quote many times before, but to see it on a chuch billboard really irritated me for some reason -

"Feeling far away from God? Guess who moved?"

What I read was 'You've only got yourself to blame if God is distant, he didn't go anywhere, you did. Look at how bad and unfaithful you are. If you really loved God then you'd feel close to Him. If you were more obedient then you'd be able to practice the presence of God all the time.'

It was at this point that my mental rant stopped as a single verse came to mind.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Jesus' obedience to the Father didn't guarentee warm fuzzy feelings of God's nearness. I've written before about the tendency to label a particular emotional experience as 'The Presence of God' and to use that emotion as a filter through which we see all experiences. If the experience replicates that emotion then God was present, if it didn't then God was distant.

But there is another error here, though maybe to be kind it's more the inadequacy of language. There is a trio of Seminary words used to describe God. - Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient. Present Everywhere, All Powerful, and All Knowing. But if God is present everywhere, how can I ever be distant from him?

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

If God is everywhere as the psalmist says then I cannot have moved away from Him. The language of distance between us and God pervades church culture, I find myself using it. I talk of 'Drawing close to God' and 'wanting to be where God is' even though it's like saying I want to draw closer to the atmosphere.

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