Tuesday, September 23, 2014

pregnancy and the presence of God

Last year when I would get home from work after a busy day running summer camp, Tim would ask me, "Did you feel the baby kicking today?"

I would shrug, feeling the panic settle in as I softly responded, "I don't know."  Then, I would pause and listen quietly, focusing my attention to my womb and wait for the tell-tale pop that reminded me she was still moving, heart beating, legs kicking, arms flailing.

When I wasn't thinking about her, I often didn't feel her move.  When we would hear her heartbeat at the doctor or go to an ultrasound, it felt like I left her in the room when we went home.  It didn't feel like she was present with me once I couldn't hear her heart or see her moving.

I think that I often feel this way about the presence of God.  Just like Lucy was present with me wherever I went for the whole pregnancy, so God has been present with me wherever I go for many years. And when I don't attend to Him, when I'm not listening quietly for Him, focusing my heart, I feel like He's not even here.  There are times, like the ultrasound or hearing the heart beat, that His voice is so clear, or I see His movement in the world.  And it is easy to feel like I left Him in those moments, that He was present then but present no longer.

"And He said, "Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire a sound of a low whisper."  1 Kings 19:9-12

I must admit, that just as I was often too busy or mind-gone-crazy to feel my own baby kicking inside me,  I often miss the whisper of God and feel like I'm alone.

It's hard to hear Him when life is loud, and everything is screaming for your attention; from media to people, there are a thousand things to distract us from God.  It's hard to hear Him when depression envelops you, when suffering is sapping your physical and emotional strength, when a good God seems far away from your bad circumstances.  It can even be hard to hear Him when life is good, when you feel happy and content, and the pleasant times distract you from a God that may have a plan to shake up your comfortable life.

So I'm trying to practice being in His presence, by listening for His voice, and watching to see what He's doing in the world.  Similar to my experience being pregnant with Lucy, if I'm not thinking about God, I'm probably missing the signs that He is present.  I'm also trying to listen to the promptings that make me uncomfortable.  Knock on that neighbor's door.  Talk to that family at church.  Email that friend I haven't spoken to for awhile.  Forgive that person that didn't even know they hurt me.  Be more organized with the time and resources He has given me.  Use the gifts that He has given me for His purposes, not bury them or use them for myself.

"We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God.  The world is crowded with Him.  He walks everywhere incognito.  And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate.  The real labor is to remember to attend.  In fact to come awake.  Still more to remain awake."  C.S. Lewis

Sometimes the Holy Spirit tells us to do something big, but most often I think it is the little acts of obedience, the daily dying to ourselves, that pleases God and draws us closer to Him.  Communing with the Lord through prayer and obedience makes me feel so much nearer to the God who is there, present with me, whether I feel it or not.  I want to stay awake to His presence. I want to see Him everywhere.

A couple months after summer camp was over, after hours of difficult labor, I finally held my precious baby in my arms.  The face I had been longing to see for months stared up at me with her big, beautiful blue eyes.  The little girl I longed to know was present with me in a deeper way than ever before.  I could hear her voice, touch her hands and feet, and hold her close.  Everyday I get to know her better as I hear her laugh, hug her, play with her, go for walks, read with her, nap on the couch, and watch her grow.  Each day is filled with her visible, tangible presence.

I find hope in the fact that, while it can be hard to feel the movement and hear the whispers this side of Heaven, there is a day coming where we will see His face.  Just like my pregnancy was for a time with Lucy, so the time distant from the incognito Jesus will end.  We will hug Him, sit with Him, talk with Him, and collapse before Him in adoration because He, the One we have been longing for and waiting for, will be with us forever.  We will rest and laugh in His presence and this waiting, this pregnancy, will seem like a dream in comparison to that glorious reality.

Never forget that when He seems far, when He seems absent, He has promised that He is close.  "Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20

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