In July of 2018, I penned a blog post describing my experience of the Presence of God. It was a moment of centering for me—amid so much anxiety and turmoil, it brought me peace to recall the details of God’s warm embrace and the gentle breeze of God’s Spirit. As my belief in God has wavered and my doctrinal beliefs have shifted over the years, the pursuit of God’s Presence has been my one constant.
Throughout my journey, though, I’ve had several questions arise in my mind regarding the Presence of God, and I’ve had others tell me things about this at-times elusive Presence that I find concerning.
Several times, after recounting my struggles with doubts and sharing my deep hunger for a real and deep experience of the Presence of God like I had felt on previous occasions, mentors such as my father or church friends would suggest that perhaps, I’d never feel anything quite like that again, and it was an expression of entitlement to suggest that I might go on hoping to feel that again for the rest of my life. It was as if my experience of the Presence of God was akin to a childhood experience with fairies. Here I was, retelling my most profound memories in vivid detail, and those I held in high regard replied with, “sure, that was beautiful, but maybe you’ve just lost the Sight. We all have to grow up someday.”
I wouldn’t have it. And so I continued to ask God to extend to me Their Presence once again. Over and over, I asked, and over and over, I felt nothing. I could not hear the voice of God, metaphorical or literal, within my own spirit or in the air, and I could not see what They were up to. All I could do was wait, and this, I did with much impatience. I felt like God didn’t care, felt like God didn’t love me, felt like maybe, They didn’t even exist at all. I began imagining a world in which my childhood experiences were illusions, mere shadows of a divine mirage. This idea almost hurt less to think about than the idea that God had simply grown bored of my company, and decided to withdraw Their Presence completely.
The turning point, I feel, came when I finally embraced the image of God within myself. Instead of living in the fear of man, constantly concerned with what others saw, what others thought, what others said, I found a bit of quiet, and in that quiet, God was there. The question remains, though, am I entitled to the Presence of God? Did I deserve an answer?
It’s certainly problematic for any person following Christ or pursuing the divine to suggest that they have a right to summon the Presence of God. For me, the Presence of God has been a wild experience that has come and go without much control on my part, but I truly believe it can be cultivated. When cultivating the Presence of God, though, it’s a lot less about telling God when and where and how They will show up in your life, and a whole lot more about making space in which God has every opportunity to break through when it’s the right moment. Sure, God can give you a real experience of Their Presence in the midst of your morning readings, but God can just as easily find you on your morning commute, or in the midst of a crowd. Because of this, it seems silly, in my opinion, to suggest that a prayer for the real and powerful Presence of God is an expression of entitlement. It isn’t entitled to ask God to fulfill Their promises, to meet you in the ways They have others before.
God met Daniel in the lion’s den, shielding him when others had turned against him. God met Hagar in the desert, providing her and her son with the resources and guidance they needed. God met the three young Jewish men in the fiery furnace, showing them the powerful force of God’s will when they proved their faith against every test. God met Peter in the waves, bringing him along in the “little faith” that he had. A prayer for the Presence of God is unwittingly a prayer for hardship, because the Presence of God will not be found on the bright and blissful path, but in the storm, in the thorns, in the darkness, in the waves, in the heat, in the raging, raging fire. In the moment you feel you have expended every ounce of faith you have—that is the moment God will show up. That is the moment the waters will part, the hand of God will keep you from sinking. And even as hardship continues, nothing will ever be quite as sweet as knowing that you are held in God’s arms in the midst of it.
I encourage you. Before you fall asleep tonight, pray this simple prayer. See what happens.
God, I want to feel your Presence.
If you have had an experience of the Presence of God you would like to share, please email me (levipont @ gmail . com), in however many words seem fit. I love hearing these stories. ❤