Bella began to apply mascara onto her eyelashes. Sometimes she seriously thought about ditching make up for good. Then she could rub her eyes any time she wanted and wouldn’t have to worry about looking like a racoon if she cried. But today she was going out and would be seeing people. She wondered why she was free without makeup when she knew she would be on her own and not so free when she planned on being with others. Just a gentle “why?” was there underneath everything but she moved away from it.
She noticed her eyelashes and began to think about how many eyelashes she would have lost in her lifetime so far…and how many more grew in to replace the fallen-out ones. She thought about God and right in the middle of this random, kinda crazy talk in her head, she was amazed at what came out of it. God is a giving-back God. He gives back, He restores, He fills – maybe not giving back exactly what is lost but giving back in a way that heals. She decided that she would take this with her throughout the day and see what other things about God presented themselves as she sought to be present to His presence through simple objects she would see, think about or do.
She went into the chapel on-line where a community of contemplatives joined each morning to hold silence together. She was discovered as a newbie and a woman from a neighbouring Canadian city wrote, “Yeah! Another Canadian!” in the chat. How welcoming. God is a welcoming God, a God who welcomes me, welcomes everyone from all over the world. She took a moment to receive the warmth of this welcoming God.
Down in the kitchen, she had some leftover mess from the night before and got some good soapy hot water going to wash up the items. She retrieved her glasses so she could actually see where food might be hiding in the crevices. The water felt so good on her hands, the soap bubbles so soft and white. “God is a cleansing God.” “Cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow,” took on a different feel standing at the kitchen sink with her hands in the hot soapy water looking out at a robin splashing in the bird bath. He looked like he wanted a cleansing too and he made it look so joyful.
Sitting down with coffee and Psalm 32, she noticed the verses that stood out to her and she imagined God speaking them straight to her – like an arrow finding the bullseye of her current life.
“Therefore, let all who are faithful offer prayer to you at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me, You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with glad cries of deliverance…steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.”
“Who are the ones who surround with glad cries of deliverance?” she wondered. That sounded so amazing. Is it the Trinity? Does God add some angels to the circle? How can I hear those glad cries? Steadfast love surrounding her…constant, always the same…no matter what happens or doesn’t happen. God is a delivering God, a steadfast God, a loving God – unchanging. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever." Closing her eyes, she imagined these things surrounding her – cries of deliverance and steadfast love.
In a zoom meeting, Bella expressed a need for some reassurance around a situation she would be walking into. The warmth and understanding of the person on the other side of the screen helped her to see so much more. Someone who knew her fears and particular constrictions and gave them space. Breathing in the peace of such a gift, her heart opened to this God who soothes, this God who understands her fears and doesn’t judge her quirky tendencies.
At the end of the day, Bella went for a swim. She paid attention to the water touching every part of her body. Smooth, cool water, shedding the built-up humidity within her. The one verse from the old hymn, The Love of God, came to her thoughts:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.
O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure The saints’ and angels’ song.
The pool wasn’t an ocean but it would do!
To practice the presence of God is to notice what is around you – the simplest things are the best. You notice the thoughts that come. You don’t have to force analogies – only be open to the Spirit bringing them. Throughout the day, in whatever you do, wherever you go, you look for God in it. How does He show up? What parts of His character are you reminded of?
Bella didn’t think of God in everything. She often forgot that she had wanted to practice His presence the whole day. But when she did, she became aware of God’s presence in beautiful ways. She noticed her resistance to know things about herself, the longings she had, the truths she needed to hold close, the sense of her belovedness in it all. She was reminded of who and what God is like and saw where she needed Him.
It does sound a bit odd – “practicing” the presence of God. What we are really “practicing” is being aware of a presence that is ever present.
Photo by Sixteen Miles Out - Unsplash