I read a beautiful quote this morning:
God is everywhere. There is no place God is not… You cry out to Him, ‘Where art Thou, my God?’ And He answers, “I am present, my child! I am always beside you.’ Both inside and outside, above and below, wherever you turn, everything shouts, ‘God!’
In Him we live and move. We breathe God, we eat God, we clothe ourselves with God. Everything praises and blesses God. All of creation shouts His praise. Everything animate and inanimate speaks wondrously and glorifies the Creator. Let every breath praise the Lord!
– Joseph the Hesychast 78th Letter
When I was learning about the intricacies of theology, particularly the doctrine of God, I was easily confused. I was confused because so many paradoxes played with my mind. Is God in the world or outside of it? Is God three or one and which is logically prior to the other? Does God need us to be God or is God just fine without us? These kinds of questions were vexing because no amount of energy and sweat I put into them gave me satisfying answers. While it’s important to wrestle with these questions, I have learned it’s equally important to recognize when I need to be humble, shut up, and just listen.
For a long time I had to figure it all out. I needed some kind of explanation on which I could hang my hat and say, “That’s exactly what I believe.” Unable to ground myself for every long on either side of the paradoxes that God presents to our limited understanding I jumped from one idea to the next. Either way I was ultimately unsatisfied.
Maybe I was going about it all wrong? Maybe I was finding different ways to make God into an image of myself. Why would I want a God that I couldn’t have some degree of control over? The truth is that getting control over God with my own intellect was the only way I felt comfortable. I would talk about how ambiguity and mystery were the solutions to our problems in the church today. Yet there I was trying to hammer out answers in my unsatisfied mind.
What I didn’t understand at the time is that most of the problems I had with the church were really problems I had with myself. I projected my own discomfort with myself onto other things. It was a way to feel like I could control my faith. What I sought was a God and a church that looked just like who I thought I was. I wasn’t telling myself the truth and it left me hopeless and with a sense that God was absent if not dead. My feelings were not facts.
My problem is that I didn’t allow myself to stop and sit in the truth of the world as it really is. I can’t control most of what happens around me much less God. I can’t completely figure God out. That alone should give me comfort. That alone should put me at ease because I know then that God is definitely not me. But while God is not me, God is everywhere and there is no place where God is not. Christ died and went to hell occupying even that space with God.
As St. Paul writes, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
If I lose hope in my own understanding of things; if I lose my sense of balance in the world; even if I lose my sense that God is alive, there is One who restores that balance. There is No Place God is Not.