Frederick Buechner writes, “There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not . . . because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
How close has God come? So close that, as Thomas à Kempis put it, “every creature will be to you a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine.” So close that, in the words of Jean Pierre de Caussade, “each moment is a revelation from God.” So close that he can flow in and through your life from one moment to the next like a river. So close that your heart will be beating with life because Someone is walking around in there. God is closer than you think.
Set aside for now the question of to what extent any of us is capable of experiencing God’s presence in our current spiritual condition. Set aside your past failures or future worries.
The teaching of Scripture is that God really is present right here, right now. Michelangelo’s picture really does express spiritual reality. The Spirit of God is available to you and me: flowing all the time, welling up within us, quenching our unsatisfied desires, overflowing to refresh those around us. He is at work all the time, in every place. And every once in a while, somebody somewhere wakes up.
God with the Kitchen Guy
There are real people who claim it has happened before. It happened to a man named Nicholas Herman in the food service industry. He had had stints in the military and in transportation, and now he was a short-order cook and bottle-washer. But he became deeply dissatisfied with his life; he worried chronically about himself, even whether or not he was saved.
One day Nick was looking at a tree, and the same truth struck him that struck the psalmist so long ago: the secret of the life of a tree is that it remains rooted in something other and deeper than itself. He decided to make his life an experiment in what he called a “habitual, silent, secret conversation of the soul with God.”
He is known today by the new name given to him by his friends: Brother Lawrence. He remained obscure throughout his life. He never got voted pope. He never got close to becoming the CEO of his organization. He stayed in the kitchen. But the people around him found that rivers of living water flowed out of him that made them want to know God the way he did. “The good brother found God everywhere,” one of them wrote, “as much while he was repairing shoes as while he was praying with the community.” After Lawrence died, his friends put together a book of his letters and conversations. It is called Practicing the Presence of God and is thought, apart from the Bible, to be the most widely read book of the last four centuries. This monastic short-order cook has probably out-sold novelists John Grisham and Tom Clancy and J. K. Rowling put together.
Ortberg, John. 2009. God Is Closer than You Think. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.