The God Who Is Not Far Away
When I was a kid, I remember wondering if Heaven was in the sky, just beyond my sight somewhere in the puffy clouds. I would look up at the clouds and imagine God sitting on top of one looking down at me.
As I got older, I began to realize that God probably didn't live in the clouds and I started to believe that Heaven most likely was somewhere in the deepest reaches of outer space.
But no matter how my perspective seemed to change, and my understanding of God began to be transformed by my questions, doubts and explorations, I still had held to the basic premise that God was not imminent or near.
In fact, for years into adulthood, I carried with me the notion of God being "out there," or "up there"--basically somewhere, anywhere other than here.
The notion of God not really being with us here in the down and dirty, grimy, gritty nature of our existence is pretty common. Far too many faith communities not only support such a notion, but they also willingly perpetuate it often to the detriment of good Christian theology.
I wonder what it would it look like if we embraced the following belief of God's presence as outlined by theologian Paul Tillich:
We must abandon the external height images in which the theistic God has historically been perceived and replace them with internal depth images of a deity who is not apart from us, but who is the very core and ground of all that is.How might this change the way we think about God, and whether God is present with us during times of tragedy or trouble? How might it change the way we approach issues of Creation Care? How might it transform the way we view ourselves as God's very own?
The Apostle Paul described God as the one in which "we live and move and have our being." Clearly, Paul believed that God was in all, through and all and is all, as he stated elsewhere in his letters.
Theologian Sallie McFague describes a God who is "constantly, annoyingly present in the world." It is inconvenient for us to come to face to face with the nearness of God. It calls us to faithfulness, and to better stewardship of ourselves and the world around us, which is not always easy.
But in the end, this belief of a close-up, very present God is a belief that should bring us great peace, unbridled joy, and unfettered hope. God is not far away from you--neither today nor tomorrow or any day after that, and forevermore.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.