Do you ever pray and feel like no one is listening?
Are you ever running through your list of petitions and find yourself asking for generic things while in the back of your mind your true worries and fears, sins and shortcomings sit unattended and unaddressed?
Are you ever in the middle of an Our Father or the Rosary and find your lips moving, but your mind somewhere else?
Do you ever want God simply to talk to clearly and definitively (whether through a burning bush, from a cloud or via an angelic messenger)?
Yeah, me too.
But here’s the thing.
God is here…I just keep missing him.
Let me explain.
Over and over again, Jesus Christ tells us to trust him. The Bible is replete with examples of God telling us not to worry, to persevere, to have faith.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:7-11)
This is the dominant theme of our relationship with God. Trust me, God says. Why should we?, we respond. Our constant retort to a loving God goes something like this: We’re not sure we can trust you. How can we know you won’t let us down? You are daunting and mysterious, yet you ask us to trust and be patient. Well, mystery means risk (perhaps too much risk) so we think we should take control of things for a little while to ensure everything works out.
And that’s when we make a mess of things.
But God is there on the other end of the conversation. His presence is everywhere all the time. We just have a hard time admitting it. Our earthly eyes are dimmed; our spiritual eyes are sadly neglected. It is curious: we have a habit of puckishly describing inexplicable life events with words like coincidence, karma, fate, destiny, chance, or luck. This is our tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that odd and fortunate things can happen which simply defy explanation. We feel oddly comfortable with coincidence and fate. We feel strikingly oblivious to the Holy Spirit (or the Hand of God).
But let’s be honest. There are times when a moment of Grace – some fortunate encounter, perfectly placed insight, or unmerited gift – thunks us square between the eyes. And if we are smart, if we are truly aware, we will be like Cleopas walking on the road to Emmaus with the unrecognized Christ. Our first visceral impulse when we feel the intoxicating nearness of God is to blurt out “Stay with us!”. We never want that bliss to end. But when we become aware that indeed God is near, we (like Cleopas) experience an incomparable moment of epiphany,
Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way…? (Luke 24:32)
God is acting in our lives. Constantly. His presence is assured. Always. That is the undeniable Fact irrespective of our feelings. Remember St. Paul’s fierce assurance,
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
God’s love for us and tangible involvement in our lives is not dependent on whether we acknowledge it (though we should), appreciate it (though we ought to) or fully comprehend it (we should be so blessed). He is not a creation of our consciousness; we are a creation of His. And so when we go through times of spiritual dryness or distraction, God does not waver one bit. He doubles down. His Grace is sufficient in our darkness. He just reaches out for us again and again. The Shepherd is looking for his lost sheep. The Widow is looking for her errant coin. The Father is desperate for his prodigal son. And we can rest assured that the God who is the author of limitless love and unbounded joy, transcendent purpose and incomparable dignity has made us an unbreakable promise. Understand this and understand it well.
Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
Yes. Of course. How else could it be?
Without doubt, God is here.
I just keep missing him.