Yesterday evening at church, Pastor Rick was talking about being aware that we are always in the presence of God. It gave me a lot to think about. I have said here before how I've felt "far from God" at times, though scripturally, I know that is not really the case. 'How much of it is me, and how much of it is God?' has often been my question.
Sometimes I do think God can "hide his face from me" when I am in pain. I don't think that means he leaves me in any way, but just like the moon covered by clouds, the light of God's face can feel obscured by the clouds of pain and sin in this world at times. I believe those clouds pass, but at moments of the worst sorrow, they can be thick, even when I deeply long to see his face and hear his voice.
Before we even got to church, I was telling Mike as we neared the exit ramp that I've felt God speaking to me more often since I've been talking to Him more. I smiled at how obvious this concept seems in terms of human relationships, and how much more so it applies to my relationship with God. At the same time, I acknowledged that God does not always tell me what I want to hear. I want to hear answers to my problems. God wants to teach me lessons in the pain. I learned one of those lessons tonight at church.
There was a terrific visual image used in the sermon of a fish bowl filled with water, representing God's omnipresence. When Pastor Rick held up a rock and placed it in the water, he was showing how any person on earth is always surrounded by God's presence. No matter where they go or what they do, God's eyes see all. God's ears hear all. He is able to be everywhere around the person all the time, just as the water was around every part of the rock in the fish bowl. Then, the pastor pulled out a sponge. As a representation of a believer in Christ, he sunk the sponge into the bowl as a picture of how God not only surrounds the believer but also sinks into the believer's heart, bringing peace, salvation, guidance, and assurance of hope to come. As I watched the sponge in the water, I saw the pastor's hand gently squeezing that sponge. Little air bubbles floated to the top...blip blip blip. He kept squeezing while he was talking, and I thought, "Wow, that believer is really getting squeezed!"
It made sense. You can put a person in God's presence. That person can believe and absorb some of God's teachings, just like I did earlier in life when things went my way for the most part. But when God put the pressure on and began to squeeze me, it felt like all the air had gone out of me. It created a hunger for more of God's presence at just the time when I felt God's presence the least. It made me dig into the hard questions I'd previously pushed aside because they were no longer "someone else's" hard questions. They are now mine. Being squeezed gives me the chance to be soaked, and by the grace of God, I pray that what will fill me when the pressure subsides is not the air of anger and bitterness but the water of God's Spirit. And when I feel the pressure from now on, I will think of that sponge in the pastor's hand-- precious air being squeezed out of the believer, so that the "streams of living water" can rush into this heart of mine-- refreshing me and giving me hope for tomorrow.