When we can sense and feel and therefore know the presence of God, it is the tangible presence of God in our lives. We touch, feel, perceive, sense, recognize, and notice God around and within us; God’s presence is something that is obvious, evident, and plain. I want a passionate faith where I deeply sense God’s presence in my life. Passionate is a confusing word, especially for people who are introverted. Passionate often implies a proscribed way in which one experiences God: a jumping up and down, raising your hands, and shouting out loud way of experiencing God. That may be unfair to the word passionate; its true meaning describes something that is ardent, fervent, and deeply felt. I want to deeply feel and experience God’s presence. I want my expression of it to be authentic to whatever it is that I perceive, sense, and notice about God’s presence in my life. Today. Any day. Any time.
But why is it that sometimes we feel the presence of God and sometimes we don’t? Why is it that some people seemingly sense God’s presence in their lives more readily than others?
N. Graham Standish suggests that just as there are multiple intelligences, such as emotional, musical, and intellectual intelligences— or ways of knowing—so there is a mystical intelligence “which has to do with how aware we are of God’s purpose, presence, and power.”* It’s intriguing to think that just as people have varying degrees of intellectual, emotional, musical, and other intelligences, so we might also have a varying degree of mystical intelligence. A mystical intelligence simply means that we have a way of knowing God’s presence through our mind, our senses, our feelings, and our intuition.
Initially it might sound like we either have it or we don’t, but Standish doesn’t describe it that way. Likewise, the theory of multiple intelligences doesn’t suggest that we either have one or another, but that we have a degree of any of the intelligences and we can cultivate them in our lives so as to enhance our ways of knowing, learning, and experiencing life.
Experiencing the passionate presence of God means that we seek to sense, notice, and perceive God around us. We stop confining God to some activities, such as going to church, reading the Bible, and praying, and begin to sense God’s presence in anything or anywhere.
As Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of Romans 12 calls it, giving my “everyday, ordinary life” as an offering to God means that God meets me where I’m at whether or not it’s a place I would expect to see or experience God. It means that as a result of God meeting me where I’m at, God transforms the way I see the world around me—my friends and family as well as strangers, my work and daily tasks of life, the beauty of creation, and the world’s suffering.
Years ago my extended family experienced a horrible tragedy that resulted with two members of our family dying. It was a devastating experience that forever impacted us. But as we prepared for this double funeral, my mother shared a list she had made of how God had been in the midst of it. My definition of tragedy is that God doesn’t intend for it to happen—I would never say that God willed or intended for this tragedy to happen—but I believe in the midst of the worst of life, even in dying, God is present and sometimes even more palpable because in our darkest times we look for every glimmer of light.
God’s goodness may be in the silence rather than the speech, in the edges rather than the center of things, in the healing rather than the untouched.
Where do you need to practice seeing the presence of God?
Taken from A Faithful Heart: Daily Guide for Joyful Living by Sally Dyck (Abingdon Press, 2010)