Wednesday, August 29, 2012

God is in the room

I read a short essay by Jill Carattini, an editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and I wanted to write about it here.

She begins by telling the story of picking up a dictionary to look up a word and being "stopped in [her] tracks by a piece of paper that fell out."

In his familiar mechanical script (block lettering and always in pencil) my dad had carefully scratched a word on a torn off corner of paper. His handwriting immediately caught my eye, but it was he himself that seemed to leap off the page. I had forgotten the dictionary was even his, landing on my shelves posthumously. But I was immediately filled with a sense of somber mystery: What was he up to? Why was this word on his mind? Did he hear it somewhere and quickly scribble it down to look up later? Was he researching something or was he just curious? His thoughts, however ordinary they may have been, seemed wonderful, fueled by the sense that I was somehow on his trail; or at least a trail he had once been on. The word was one I'd never heard before. As I looked it up, it felt as if he was peering over my shoulder.
I have been stopped in my tracks similarly by the presence of God. Like a forgotten slip of paper that lands in my hands, God's handwriting suddenly appears in unlikely places, reminding me of the Spirit's presence, the Son's hand in a difficult situation. These are the kind of moments that wake me up. Stumbling across evidence that God is in the room, spaces in my minds long anesthetized by sin or stuff or self are given a sobering thought: God is here, and I didn't even know it.
I have also been stopped in my tracks by the sudden awareness of God's presence. Often it comes as I reflect on the circumstances of my life, the way things fell into place -- or fell apart so that they could later fall together. I see God in "coincidences" and serendipity and good "luck" -- and I've come to rely on the way He manifests himself to me through these things as one of the guiding forces in my decision making. 

It's the times that He reminds me that He is in control, when things work out in unexpected or undesired ways, that I am forced to step back and look for what He is trying to teach me, what it is He wants me to do and become. He is always there, always shaping; "But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand" (Isaiah 64:8).

I am realizing that it is the accumulations of those experiences, of recognizing God's presence in my life and feeling His Spirit in my heart that keeps me secure in my faith. 

D&C 121:45 mentions our "confidence wax[ing] strong in the presence of God." In her essay Carattini references the account in Genesis of Jacob's dream explaining that, "When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.' Then he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.' In a desperate place, the faith of his fathers' became his own." And Elder Bednar explained in a conference address that "the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ" and that "we should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live."
Ending her essay, Carattini states:
In one word, I was reminded that my father, whose absence is often the mark I see most clearly, has left his signature throughout my life, in this case literally. How much more so God moves through our lives...pursuing us through sin and selfishness, longing for us to see the evidence that God is in the room.

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