The wilted remains of pea salad, oriental chicken salad, jello, macaroni salad, and drooping concoctions of cool whip, cherries and graham crackers weigh down the table in the church basement. We finished our salad luncheon and were listening, as I was being introduced as the guest speaker. Invited to address church women of Sabetha, Kansas at their annual spring gathering, I prayed silently, “Jesus, what do you want me to tell the people?” I had planned my remarks, but I often prayed this question before a presentation. Usually I heard, “Tell the people that I love them.” On this spring afternoon in 1991 what came was, “Tell the people that I miss them.”
Over the past eighteen years the message has remained the same: God misses you. Your presence and attention to the Divine matters, makes a difference, counts. God grieves when you are absent from communion with the Holiness filling this world.
“We live in an age of unbelief,” writes Ronald Rolheiser. “What sets this apart from past generations is that, today, this is often as true within religious circles as outside them. The problem of faith today is especially that of unbelief among believers.” In his book, The Shattered Lantern – Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God, Rolheiser writes about our struggle with faith and agnosticism. “We still have some experience of God, though rarely is this a vital one wherein we actually drink, first-hand, from living waters.” (pages 17-18)
What does it mean for you to drink, first-hand, from living waters of God? What shift needs to occur in us in order to turn aside and reach for a felt presence of God? For me it begins with the recognition that fundamental peace and clarity do not come from my achievements, intellect, or effort, but rather from conscious contact with the Living Reality which sustains all life. To turn toward a God who misses me begins with a conviction that God is more active, effective, and powerful in my life and world than I am.
In 1926 Evelyn Underhill addressed a class of young seminarians preparing to go into the ministry in the Anglican Church with these words:
We, the laity, know instantly the difference between the churches which are served with love and devotion and those which are not. And we know from this, what their ministers are like. And what you are like is going to depend on your secret life of prayer; on the steady orientation of your souls to the reality of God.
Remember those compasses people used to put on the dashboards of their vehicles before we had GPS? As a child I loved to watch the dial bounce around in the fluid as the driver turned the wheel and we changed directions.
How do you determine when your direction is steadily aligned with magnetic pull of God? For many of us there is no felt pull toward the holy, toward the compelling mystery of life and love. At the same time many people have a sense that something is missing – a dryness, loneliness, a searching for something of more substance and depth than celebrity worship, political posturing, or being defined as a consumer of commodities.
What is magnetic north in your life? What has the strongest pull on your attention and direction? Where is that direction leading you? Toward greater satisfaction, peace, and generosity? Or toward something else?
When we acknowledge that there is a God who misses us and that we are missing God, we set aside our agendas, the chaos, and allure of the world and enter into a larger, more generous, and wiser Reality. We are cleansed, rinsed by the refreshing, renewing Living Water, which soothes and realigns us with our deepest truth and purposes. Here is our heart’s true home, the soul’s magnetic north.
This Friday The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer will resume Midday Prayer gatherings from 12:15 – 1:00. Held weekly at The Sanctuary office at 1600 SW Campbell and open to the community, these periods of contemplative prayer focus on communal silence. Join us in body or spirit and orient yourself to Ultimate Reality. God may be missing you way more than you know.