Experiencing god

I was asked to share something at church this morning. The prompt was: “What was a moment/time/situation that you remember experiencing God’s involvement in your life?”

To be honest, I felt deeply uncomfortable. I responded to my friend:

“You sure you’re ok with my definition of “God” and “involvement”? :) It will be “divine” and it will include some wrestling. I won’t have a pretty bow on it.”

He responded:

“Yep. That’s our whole church.”

So here’s what I shared.

I was 13 when I first felt that there was something more. I sat alone in a darkened field in east Texas and stared up at the sky. I asked questions and the stars twinkled back answers I didn’t understand. But somehow, something stirred within me and I knew I was not alone.

I was 23 when I first went camping. Before the sun came up the first morning, I climbed to the top of a nearby pile of rocks. A breeze kicked up and cooled my face. The stars began to disappear as the sun began its early morning march into the sky. This was the handiwork of the God of the Bible. I was sure of it.

I was 25 when my mom died. I sat alone at the end of the couch and faintly heard her last whimpers from her bedroom as the cancer finally overcame her. When the paramedics wheeled her body to the ambulance, I stood on the front lawn in the darkness of night and held my father in my arms as he cried. I stared back up into that inky black sky and felt completely alone.

If God was real, he didn’t care about me anymore, so I no longer cared about him.

I was 28 when my first child was born. I stood at the end of the bed, wrapped my hands around her, pulled her out into the world, and placed her on her mother’s belly. Hearing her first cries, and watching my wife hold this new baby close to her chest, time stood still. This was sacred.

But God wasn’t there. Because my mom would never know this little baby. And that was God’s fault.

I was 30 when I tried to put it all back together. I moved my family across the country to work at the biggest church in America. I replaced the wonder I had found in that field and in that sunrise with altar calls, slick sermons, and light shows. Maybe if I saved more souls, this vindictive God would spare me from more pain. But I was trying to build on a broken foundation. Within 4 years, it all came crashing down. For good.

I was 35 when I purchased a house in the woods. One night, I went for a walk in the bitter cold of an Idaho winter. The blankets of snow draped across the trees made the air still and quiet. I lifted my eyes from the darkness around me to a blanket of lights far above me. And once again, those stars twinkled answers I didn’t understand.

I was 38 when I finally figured out that I didn’t need to have God figured out.

God could be male. God could be female. God didn’t need a gender.
God didn’t need to be a person at all.
God didn’t need me to protect her image in the public square.
God didn’t need to be argued or faught over.

God wasn’t some magical being “out there.” John Robinson said, “the word ‘God’ denotes the ultimate depth of all our being, the creative ground and meaning of all our existence.” And if that is true, God existed in a deeper place than the God from Sunday school.

God is love. And I feel that presence whenever I choose to experience it.

Hi there, I'm Jon.

Writer. Musician. Adventurer. Nerd.

Purveyor of GIFs and dad jokes.