Where Are We Looking For God?
Some of the people who come to me for spiritual direction are looking for God.
Many of us have a hazy picture of God. We may have had an understanding of God when we were younger, but we have since lost it. Some of us grew up without any particular formal view of God.
Some people have thought about God a great deal. They may have a professional interest in God, or a longstanding personal one.
Other people come to me looking for God without much experience. For them, God is the third initial in OMG!
One thing both these kinds of people share in common is an assumption God is a binary kind of being. There is an underlying assumption God is focused on right and wrong, good and evil. Both kinds of people believe God is difficult to find and understand because God is so far away from us.
Even the people who say they have known God for years and years often feel God is distant. Their experience of God may be a series of events separated by long periods of frustration.
Many of believe we need to act in certain ways and believe specific things for God to love us. We often believe our experience of looking for God is God’s way of telling us we are not good enough.
The people who come to me without much education or experience about God seem to have underlying beliefs. They often believe they need to do more to find God.
It is as if God is busy doing important things and does not have much time for us. When we are looking for God it is like God is hiding and we are seeking.
Where are we looking for God?
Are We Looking For God?
Some of us do not seem to be looking for God very seriously.
We may think about God every once in a while, or wonder where God went. Some of us looked for God more intentionally during different times in our lives.
We may have explored God when we were children, or when we were in college. It sort of feels like we have outgrown looking for God.
It could be we are distracted. We have become focused on our work, or our families, or something else.
Some of us have lost the thread, lost the habit of paying attention to God.
It may not be we have actually lost interest in God. Some of us feel too tired to spend much time looking for God now.
There are people who become impatient and angry with God. Maybe not God personally, but with other people who believe in God. They have been frustrated and disappointed so many times they decide to give up looking for God.
Paying attention to God can be challenging. I believe we create most of those challenges ourselves.
God is not trying to keep us away by throwing obstacles into our path. Many of us do not appreciate how God is trying to communicate with us and we allow other people to get in the way.
Maybe some of the things we have been taught about looking for God are mistakes.
Every so often we need to examine what we think we know and explore how we look for God. As we explore, we begin to discover new insights about looking for God. We ask questions and reflect, and we find we did not know as much as we thought we did.
We practice looking for God and God is revealed to us.
How Are We Looking For God?
We do not need to go to a special place at a special time on a special day to look for God.
Our search for God is not about our technique or the methods we use. It is easy for us to get caught up in the details, even when the details do not matter.
The most significant part of how we look for God is our ability to be open.
We sit still, close our eyes, and breathe deeply. We look for God knowing God is with us. It is too easy to lose God in the rush of distractions and concerns, all the other things we spend our time thinking about. We look for God by listening and appreciating God is there.
Looking for God is not about what we know or can remember. God is not hiding in the books we read or what we watch, or in our words, or in our thoughts, or in our feelings.
When we sit still we recognize our mistake was looking for God somewhere else, somewhere outside us. God is within us and the world around us.
We look for God where God lives.
Looking For God Where God Lives
Some people believe God lives in a special building with stained glass windows. Other people believe God’s home is faraway in heaven beyond the stars.
Some of us believe God lives in the forest, or the ocean, or the desert, or the mountains.
Many of us have particular places we go or practices we follow to experience closeness to God. I believe, no matter where we feel closest to God, God lives with us. We are the physical body of God in the world.
Our practice of listening to God can be important because our actions affect other people. We are the people they look to to decide whether or not they want to continue looking for God.
When we treat them unfairly or are impatient or mean, they look at us to see what God is like. God is reflected in us for them, whether that is fair or accurate or not.
Part of being God’s physical body in the world is being honest with them. We look for God and share what we find.
When will we be looking for God today?
What wil inspire us to begin looking for God this week?
[Image by John K Thorne]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.