What does it mean for me to be “here”? For me this evokes two ways that I am here: my physical location and what I attend to. My physical location is more than just my objective longitude, latitude, elevation. When I am in my house I am in a specific physical location, but when I am “home” in am in a place where I feel comfortable, safe, familiar. But sometimes “here” may be a place where I have never been, where nobody speaks my language and where I may feel a bit (or a lot) uncomfortable, unsafe and unfamiliar. I’m still “here” when I’m “there”.
What am I focusing my attention on when I’m “here”? If I’m scrolling FaceBook, watching Rachel on MSNBC, binging seven seasons of “The Good Wife” or worrying about my comfort or safety…I am not “here”. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities but if that is all I am attending to, then I’m not really “here”. In her poem, “For Calling the Sprit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet,” Joy Harjo says,
“Watch the mind. Without training it might run away, leaving the heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.”
Modern technology with its smart phones, internet, streaming services, etc., has surrounded us with a myriad of time thieves that are highly tuned to drawing in our attention, to shaping us, to robbing us of our “here”.
What does it mean for God to be “here”. That’s a more difficult question because God is not an objective reality. I don’t mean that there is no God, but that God is not an “object”. Objectification is reductive: It reduces the thing objectified to a category, to a generalization. God fits no category; there is no generic “god” with whom we can categorize that which we call “God”.
Language itself is limiting. To say, “God is…” reduces God. The best we can do with language is to speak in similes and metaphors: “…like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young…” (Deut 32:11), “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…” (Isaiah 66:13), “I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs…(Hos 13:8), “And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you.” (Isa 62:5).
To experience the presence of God “here” we have to go beyond words and definitions. God’s presence “here” is about relationship as implied by the similes and metaphors, not about literal definitions. God is not an eagle or mother or bear or bridegroom. Being in relationship with God is like being loved and protected as an eaglet, a cub or a child by its mother; like being loved and embraced as a bride by her bridegroom.
I can characterize my wife by objective criteria: she is a woman; she is caucasian; she is diminutive; she is a mother, a knitter, a housewife. But she is, and we together, are so much more. We are in relationship, a relationship that has grown, evolved, had its good times and bad. She is to me more than words can ever describe.
God is always “here”. Similes and metaphors, images and words are not God just like the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon, but if I use those words and images to bring to mind the relationship they allude to I can begin to hear the voice of God gently comforting and guiding me. But then I am sometimes (many times) distracted by the time thieves. I have a favorite T-shirt that says, “My wife says I only have two faults: I don’t listen and something else.” God must think the same thing