I grew up in a non-religious household. We didn’t have Bibles (besides those tiny new testaments that made their way into our home one way or another) and we didn’t attend church, even on the major holidays. Still, truths (and untruths) about God wafted into my every day life with ease. One truth about God that I have known since I was a young, non-believing but curious girl is this: God is always present.
As a child of course this meant that if I were lying in bed He was lingering perhaps near my bedroom window. If my sister and I were in the back seat of our old red Omri, Jesus was invisibly smooshed into the seat with the lap belt between us. If I were home alone, God was eerily staring at me while I watched cartoons and ate Fruit Loops. It was not as much a comforting thought as it was simply what had to be true about the great big God I knew existed even if I didn’t know His Name or understand Who He was. If there was a God, then He always was. Not in one place, but everywhere, all of the time. As Alicia Brit Chole phrases it, in her book, The Sacred Slow, “God is always in the room.”
Now, all “grown up” in my thirties and a true believer, I have not only had to relearn this foundational truth that I so easily accepted as a child, I’ve also had to reconcile it with other truths that are harder to accept.
God really is always with me.
Even when I’d like to believe He isn’t.
I recently met with a Christian friend who has been enduring some challenging circumstances. Towards the end of our time together, I offered, in earnest, to pray for her. I was met with gratitude but also…hesitance. Confused, I pondered her non verbal but still obvious rejection to my offer for prayer. It is the very best thing that I could ever offer. Carrying the people I care about to God and asking Him to do what only He can do. Unless…
unless you believe that at some point God walked away and abandoned you to the things you are now facing. Unless you also believe that even when God is there, He does nothing.
What leads us to believe that the great big God who is everywhere during our childhood, is no where to be found when we are adults?
LIFE. Mainly, all the hard things in our lives.
It’s fine believing that God is watching me while I eat my Fruit Loops, but it’s harder to accept that He is present as I hold my dying sister’s hand in the hospitable. Or my child’s or mother’s or father’s. It’s easy to believe Jesus is on the car seat next to me, but harder to believe He was in the room during abuse, or depression, or debilitating anxiety. And so we conclude, even if we never say it aloud, that God is not ALWAYS with us. He can’t be always with us because if He were the things we are facing or have faced would never have gone down the way they did. If our great big God was there surely there would have been a different outcome. It’s easier to believe He walked away than to face the reality that He stayed and seemingly did nothing. Unless..
unless we not only start believing again in the closeness of God, but we also reconcile that truth with this one: hard things happened while God was in the room.
The closeness of God was never promised as a barrier from the tough things, and yet they hurt us so deeply and tear us so effectively that we can’t believe God would ever allow us, on His watch, to be so broken, to be so injured, to be so wounded. So instead we believe the lie that He left us, that He turned His back, that He walked away because we don’t want to believe that He was there and it happened anyway. He was there?
He was there.
Here is the reality: He never walked away. He never abandoned you. He has never abandoned you. God is always in the room, even when everything in the room is spinning and turning out of your control. Even when everything in you is spinning and turning out of your control. He promised to “never leave us or forsake us” and my friends that included when the going got tough, when the wounds cut deeply, when the tears flowed freely. The closeness of God is not a “get out of pain freely” card but a “you’ve got arms to hold you while you cry” card. No matter what room you are standing in, God.Is.In.The.Room.
He’s in the room. And He’s doing what only He can do.