Feeling God

When I was young God was revealed through the Bible and miracles; I knew nearly all the answers to whatever Bible trivia games my school or Sabbath School ever had. Speed Bible-text searches? I crushed them. God was always watching. We went to church to feel Him more and show our respect. My dad was a pastor, so we were at church a lot. There was also a lot of Adventist pride here: we had the truth, we had deciphered all those strange prophecies, we knew what God really wanted and if we trusted in him, we could get more miracles. Oh, and we should be ready for persecution and running to the hills, but God would protect us and make up for it in heaven.

There was fear and comfort in these confident, concrete interpretations.

Time passed, I got older, and my God focus had a greater Jesus emphasis. Jesus was our friend. He cared for everyone and loved them, He wanted to talk with me every day, and He totally enjoyed praise bands.

More time passed. Y2K filled the news and people worried that with the upcoming millennium, life as we knew it would end. As it happened, mine did. In the havoc of the changes taking place in my life, good people, people of faith, people dear to me, people who had been my spiritual guides, became sources of turmoil. I think they really felt they were holding on to truth and goodness, but under the cloak of their religion lay fear, anger, hurt, and a desperate need for control. The Bible became weaponized with bullets of scripture and Ellen White falling all around and through me. I was left with a lot of fragments of experience and belief that no longer knit together the way they had before.

I didn’t have certainty and miracles. I had loss, and grief, and doubt.

So I journaled. And read. A Lot. And journaled about what I read. And talked with friends who were also reading and journaling. I am something of a compulsive quote-collector and these many volumes are probably half collected quotes and half personal musings. So far I have filled 22 volumes and counting…

Being human is amazing, and exhausting, and mysterious, and earthy, and complicated, and dirty, and so very humbling and educational. I needed a God, a faith, a way of being, that could embrace all of those things. One biased for compassion, for connection, and for nuance.

For the first several years I didn’t know that was what I was looking for. To be honest, I had no idea what I was looking for.

To quote myself about 15 years ago:

“For me, it is more than just [a pull to stay with] a familiar culture. There is almost a sense of obligation, a great need to pursue this quest, to stick with it somehow, to find a way to make it work, make it fit. And so I keep reading, keep compiling stories and new spins to add to old theories, hoping that if I just stick with it long enough, like Goldilocks, I’ll find the faith that’s ‘just right’.”

Here are three quotes I have on the next page. Quotes I would probably still jot down today. But I think when I first wrote them down it was with wonder and longing. And now they are more comfortable, more of an expression of my thoughts, too.

Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart...Try to love the contradictions themselves...Live the contradictions now. —Parker Palmer

Be aware of draining the mystery out of the scriptures in a misplaced desire for rational consistency. Hence, I have learned to live with incompleteness, paradox, incomprehensibility and deep mystery in my relationship with God and as I think theologically. —J.I. Packer

Recognizing and appreciating God as mystery — as opposed to God as defined by facts and proofs — can be an important step. God’s hiddenness and absence make sense only in the context of mystery. As I contemplate the stories of so many who have walked away from faith, it occurs to me that they have walked away not so much from God, but rather from a mistaken perception of God. —Ruth Tucker

When I feel God now, it’s sometimes the transcendent moments that I think many can relate to: those awe-inducing things like a sublime landscape, a beautiful piece of art, or stunning architecture. Music.

Of course music. I have this wonderful memory of singing a hymn with the Unionaires that Dr. Lynn had sort of dubbed our anthem. We had sung it many times, but it was always moving. By the time we made it to the last verse we were so tightly united in the emotion of the piece. Each crescendo. Each fermata. The music was playing us, coming out of our souls, uniting us in this gorgeous experience. Something so much more than just simply four parts being sung together. It was something bigger, deeper, more mysterious. Transcendent. Sacred.

This same sense of connection to something outside of myself happens in such an assortment of times/places that I don’t have a “thing” per se where I experience it. The wonder hits my heart, which then swells so that there’s less room for the air in my lungs. Sometimes it happens in a moment that feels full of importance. Other times it sneaks into the mundane and catches me completely unawares, but is no less powerful or holy. Miraculous, you might say.

An honest conversation with friends,

smelling the air on a crisp autumn morning,

snuggling with my girls,

seeing someone’s pain and reaching out to them,

holding hands with strangers to circle Green Lake in the name of acceptance and love,

marveling as a child figures out a new skill,

crocuses blooming through the snow and mud,

watching a parent and child delight in each other,

sitting next to someone I love.

I think it comes down to connection. I believe that there is a sacred connection between all of us and everything around us: the lily of the valley, the lost sheep, the neighbor we should love as ourselves, the stranger within our gate, the crying child, the heartbroken friend, the asylum-seeking immigrant, the transgender classmate, the Muslim next door.

We can practice looking out for this connection, and maybe get better at seeing it and feeling it. And then reach out and pluck it and feel God resonate with the strumming.

Karen Baker works as a pediatric physical therapist, and is constantly touched by the love and resilience of the families she works with. She continues to sing, read, and collect quotes with her husband and two daughters.

Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9200
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Remember when you got a ribbon for reciting 13 memory verses on 13 th Sabbath. The King James is still my literary favorite but for study I use several more contemporary versions, not knowing Hebrew or Greek. If only Wm Miller had access to at least Strong’s or the New English Version. Moses built a sanctuary but Christ came in the flesh and tented among us.

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Contrary to your earlier assertion, before the beautiful testimony above, God is NOT a mystery. He has revealed Himself completely, unreservedly in a way we can easily understand. Jesus Christ, when asked by academicians which was the greatest commandment in the Law, replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Mat. 22:37-40

But can one command love? I think not. “We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19; and again, “[Unhesitatingly] for a righteous man, one [may] die; perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. BUT God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:7-8 This is who God is, His very being, His character, and mind, His will; and His wish for us to be too. There is no mystery in that; as it is written, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Exod. 20:2

But there are many who strive for power, control, authority, knowledge, who delight themselves in purity of doctrine, policies and systems, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”, who narcissistically admire their own numbers and magnificent buildings, who stop their ears against the voice in the wilderness, and silence the truth, suspending memberships and accounts – these come daily to inquire of the LORD, “Shall we do this or that? Shall we look this way or that? Shall we say yay or nay on this or that?” For them, God is a mystery for He does not answer; so that they resort to bowing their heads and uttering vain babblings before business meetings then calling a vote afterwards, the will of God.

I tell you, the day will come when He will arise and smash their idols and idolatry; and give His Kingdom to the humble who reflect His beautiful character, whose power rests not in authority and title but in this: “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” Mat. 25:35-36

To love is to heal, and to heal is Divine. And that is enough.

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In the Conservative Jewish Book of Common Prayer there is a little note
on the side column of a page.
Goes something like this.
“There is no one who can COMMAND us to Love. It is Only the ONE who
IS Love that can command that Love be shown.”

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Beautiful, Steve…thanks for sharing!

Bible trivia, certainty and miracles replaced by mystery and music! I really appreciated this article and your list of “life” that draws you closer to God. I am all for the transcendent truth that I cannot understand fully, and knowing in part. Someday He will finish the work, and fulfill our hope!

My most recent experience of feeling God, (which was at first puzzling), was when I asked Him …Why was the church so messed up?
A still small voice came instantly to my mind…

“All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”
1 JN 3:3

In Psalms, David tells us to sing new songs to God. Songs have an amazing capacity for opening our hearts to God and express both our adoration as well as our fears. Remember the song “Shout to the Lord” by Darlene Zschech? She wrote that song during a time when her spirits were really low and she just sat at her piano and expressed the feelings on her heart. It was so relevant to so many people that it quickly became the most popular contemporary christian hymns and has been exceeded in popularity only by “I can only imagine.”

Something I find very helpful is taking a Bible story and imagining what it would have been like as one of the characters. The stories leave out so much detail that there is plenty of room for us to imagine what life was like and how we would have felt as an eyewitness to God’s actions.

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So, why do you think that the Church is so messed up? The real reason?

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I disagree most vigorously because the more I discover about God, the more wonderful He becomes and the more I realize that there is much more about Him that I do not understand. Why He could love me so much remains the greatest mystery of all, which leaves me with either rejecting that reality or diving deeply into what I cannot explain, so I am left with simply accepting that it is.

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It seems that you, by this comment, are missing out on one of the BEST attributes of God. I love the Fresh Grace and Fresh Revelations of God.

Is LOVE no longer a mystery to you? I have been married for 38 years, have two children, three grandchildren and currently two dogs and I still do not understand Love completely.

LOVE is a gorgeous mystery to me. Fascinating. Delightful. Full of Wonder. I hope that I never stop exploring our God and Love. To Infinity and Beyond!

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Remember the stages of a mother?
Stages%20of%20Mother

The changes are a function of the child as he develops and grows to adulthood and maturity while the mother remains just an object to guide the development. The same can be said about the mystery of God. Once the mystery of God has been completely “revealed,” the spiritual journey has come to an end for the believer. He has now entered into a rut.

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@WFNoel, @Red, @elmer_cupino:

Love is like an orbit: we, who are in it, are always moving and never going anywhere at all. So then, though the sunrise and sunset, in their endless permutations of colours, never fail to spring new surprises, the day is NOT a mystery. It will come; and go and come again.

Psalm 30:4-5


Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For [whereas] His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.


"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” – Jesus Christ, John 14:7. I know my Father, the one in whom I believe; and my Father knows me.

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… until it is … as Hezekiah found out.

I have no problem with you thinking that God is not a mystery and that you have it all figured out. Like I said, you just might be missing out…

I find Her still surprising and a delightful mystery. I eagerly seek God and explore the vast unknown. Every moment in everyday parables. Such is my Joy!

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Elmer –
What a trueism!
“Once the mystery of God has been completely REVEALED,
the spiritual journey has come to an end for the believer.
The Believer has NOW entered into a rut.”

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Excellent and not the other way around.

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You couldn’t resist…:laughing:

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Unless, of course…one sees themselves “as God”. Perhaps a “Demi-God”.

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Practice looking for connection. Practice. Look. Find Connection.

Be sensitive to sacred moments which are disguised as insignificant, toss-a-way, every-day-moments. It takes practice. Intentional attention. Small details, that get thrown out with the dust of every day life, might be burning bushes.

When i was in high school (ok, it was Academy), i remember reading a fascinating book. So compelling and spellbinding, i could not put it down. From page 1 to page 640.

An hour after i closed the book, my alarm announced that it was time to arise for school. It also woke me to the fact that i had forgotten to prepare a verbal report for “Current Events”, due that day in Professor Osborn’s history class.

In panic, i hurriedly scanned the current Newsweek to find something to share in class. My heart skipped a beat when my eyes landed on that week’s book review. “Nicholas and Alexandra, The Last Tsar and His Family” by Robert K. Massie. The paperback edition had just been released. The same book that i had just spent the whole night reading from cover to cover.

Coincidence? Miracle? Luck? i chose to see it as a Gorgeous Gift of Grace and i symbolically laid the first of many stones on the cairn of my spiritual encounters with God.

i look with intention for every-day-parables every single day. It is a sacred practice. “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God” EBB.

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If God has revealed Himself fully, what is the point of eternal life? If our finite human minds can fully comprehend God, in His entirety, then He is no longer God.

God has revealed enough of Himself for us to acknowledge and believe. Our minds are not capable of fully comprehending God. Christ on earth used language and concepts that we can understand to help us explore a limitless being. Each day brings new experiences of God.