Many of us think of an encounter with the Spirit of God as a rare, special event. Once in a lifetime even. In fact, nothing could be more common. Or easy. Or glorious.
Encountering God is as simple and unavoidable as the beat of your own heart, as a fish encountering water, as a creature with eyes encountering light.
Stop to consider this question: how often do you “encounter the presence” of light? “Every time I open my eyes,” you might say. Or, “All the time.”
Light is so ubiquitous that we rarely take notice of it. Whether by the sun, the moon, or a human-made source, the light is almost always there, illuminating the world around us (coalminers and spelunkers notwithstanding). And because light is always there, we pay little attention to it, and instead spend nearly all of our focus on the objects which it illuminates.
The exception to this is when the light either suddenly or drastically intensifies or diminishes. Someone shining a flashlight in your eyes, or a driver flashing their high-beams at you from the oncoming lane. A sudden power outage, or the brief but eerie darkness of a solar eclipse.
So let’s follow Jesus’ lead for a moment and use light as an analogy for Christ (i.e., the Spirit of God that gives life to all things). Christ is all around us all the time; illuminating both the seer and the seen with His presence. But often only noticed when experienced in the extreme.
These extreme experiences are, for some of us, the only times we recognize God’s presence. Which is like only remembering the presence of light in a blinding flash or a blackout.
As an enneagram 7 (The Enthusiast!) who grew up in charismatic churches, you could imagine that I am drawn to ecstatic experiences. So many times* (dozens, maybe hundreds), praying to receive the Holy Spirit or to be baptised with the Holy Spirit. Truth is, I wanted to feel something. The idea that I could feel the love and peace I longed for, if I said just the right words or had a pure enough intention, filled me with such a craving. But when I didn’t feel anything, which was most of the time, I felt pretty shitty. Rejected.
* Not nearly as many times as I prayed the sinner’s prayer, but we’ll dig into that another time.
That’s a real shame, for me and for anyone who’s had an experience of rejection when they didn’t feel God when they were hoping to. Or for anyone that mistakenly believes that God’s presence is a fickle and fleeting thing.
This lie of believing that the Kingdom of God is a finite resource is exactly what the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son believed. And this belief was the source of his suffering.
After his wayward little brother returns from burning all his cash on unsavory activities, their dad throws the prodigal son a rager as a reward when he comes crawling back with his well-rehearsed sob story. The older brother is like, “What gives, Dad? My kid brother gets to be a moron and you throw him this huge party? I’ve been the ‘good kid’ this whole time and you don’t even host a classy brunch for me and my friends.”
The father doesn’t flick him in the forehead or call him ungrateful. He replies to this tantrum by saying, “My son. I am always with you and everything I have is yours.”
Father of the Year material.
I used to think of this verse as the father telling his son, “You could’ve asked for anything and I would’ve given it to you,” but that’s not what he says. What the father says is, “I already gave it to you. You have it. What you want is already in your possession. You’ve just never realized it.”
The truth is, the thing we most deeply long for (happiness/fulfillment/peace/God) is present and available at all times, but we fool ourselves into thinking that it’s only available in rare, unpredictable flashes of brilliance. Nothing could be further from the truth.
So, let’s a take a moment. Right now. To appreciate that.
Look around the room. Imagine the light in the room you’re sitting in at this moment is the presence of God. Usually, you’d just see the objects in the room, but for this moment pay attention instead to the light that enables you to see those objects. Look again.
Do you have to strain to see the light? Do you struggle to “believe” that it’s there? Of course not. How ridiculous. Seeing the light is the easiest thing in the world, when you realize that’s what you’ve been doing all along.
What I’m trying to say is, the light of the world doesn’t have an off-switch. There’s no getting away from it. Christ is all. In all.
This is the perichoresis (circle dance) of the Holy Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit move around us as all forms, including ourselves. We are in the dance because we are the dance.
This is why nondual Christianity energizes me. Taking the idea that we are one with God and marrying it with the enduring language, tradition, and metaphors of the Judeo-Christian heritage, and with the person of Jesus Christ is just too good to pass up. It is a simple, direct path to true happiness and the fulfillment of what we seek.
Eternal life is knowing God, as Jesus said. And according to John 3:16, that was Jesus’ purpose: that we wouldn’t perish but have eternal life. All that stuff Jesus did – the healings, the miracles, the teachings, the crucifixion, the resurrection – it was so we could know God.
Why in the world would you wait til you die to know God? Why delay your gratification like that? Why not start your eternal life today, right now?
God is here, my friend. Call it whatever you want, but whatever it is, it is here. Grab it. Take it. It’s yours. Because it’s you. What else could you be?
Let’s move ourselves into the awareness of the Divine Presence with a few quotes from Jesus and about Christ. I encourage you to read them slowly. Maybe even multiple times. Allow the truth in. That God is here. Now. Always.
Grace is yours. Peace is yours.