Finding God in a busy world is something I have returned to on and off over the years.
I have led one or two devotional days on the theme but have done so from the perspective of a fellow traveler rather than with any pretense of expertise. I have tried to share how I have encountered God in both expected and unexpected places.
Formal Christianity offers many moments for encountering God, through sermons, times of worship and devotional reading. We must not become jaundiced about this, especially if we are in leadership or if we have been Christians for many years. What once thrilled us can become mundane unless we work at reinvigorating our relationship with God. What once thrilled us can still thrill those younger in the faith. A cynical pastor is a sad thing!
But if God is someone we encounter on Sundays alone, then our understanding of God will be seriously deficient. Finding God in the everyday is not a luxury to be experienced as an occasional treat but a real necessity if we’re to live lives that accurately reflect our declared belief in the God who is in the world.
This is the God who cares about our lives and loves, our work and our worries, our hopes and dreams, our successes and failures. This is the God who walks with us to the summit and is there to meet us in the depths. This is the God who moves in harmony with us.
Twenty years ago, I was reading J.V. Taylor’s wonderful book “The Go-Between God” and came across a drawing of the Trinity by William Blake. I thought it was absolutely stunning and I still do. It was a moment of profound encounter.
I tracked it down to the British Museum, and in the days before the Internet asked if they had a poster. (No.) Was it on display so I could visit? (No. It was in their archives.) Could I get a photograph of it? (Yes, for 80 pounds. In 1991, that was a lot.) I paid the price and I have the photograph hanging at home ever since. And incidentally, it triggered a fascinating conversation with the man who framed it for me, a man of no apparent faith but who marveled at the energy captured in the simple, swirling lines.
Music is an obvious place to find God also. What is it about music that causes the human spirit to soar like an eagle one moment and plumb the depths in the next? It can be orchestral, rock, vocals – take your pick. Only two weeks ago, I went to a concert featuring Peter Knight’s Gigspanner. Knight was once the Steeleye Span fiddle player. Their musicianship was of the highest order and truly mesmerizing. (You can see one of the tracks they played here but understand the percussion especially is nowhere as intense as on that evening.) In the midst of such rhythmic music, momentarily you can be “lost” and at that same moment be “finding.”
Then there are books – and for me, few surpass Hemingway, except maybe Steinbeck, and for me his greatest work “The Grapes of Wrath.” I defy anyone who has read the whole book and who doesn’t know the ending to reach the last two pages and not well up in tears at the raw humanity and the echoes of divinity in what is recounted there. God is to be found in those pages for sure and in the works of so many wonderful novelists and playwrights.
In truth there’s so much. After a while it’s impossible not to find God. Carlos Santana playing Samba Pa Ti, Roger McGough’s poem “Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death,” Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice,” Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and just those moments when you lean back from the table and watch your friends laughing. But now I’m just being indulgent.
You may say that all I’m describing are moments when we are moved emotionally. And to some extent that’s true. But this is the rhythm I spoke about earlier. It’s as our human spirit rises and falls, we can, by an act of the will and with a sensitized heart, find that the Spirit of God moves in harmony with us, allowing us to find God in the everyday.
David Kerrigan is general director of BMS World Mission. This column first appeared on his blog, Thinking Mission, and is used by permission. BMS World Mission was founded in 1792 in Britain as the Baptist Missionary Society.