The Nearness of God
Pictured above are the remains of an early Irish monastery at Glendalough. We read several prayers and poems written by Irish monks in my Faith & Life Track last night, and many of us were moved by a prayer written in the 700s. A portion of this prayer is below; it was meant to be said upon waking, to ask for God's protection during the day:
"I rise today with the power of God to pilot me, God's strength to sustain me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look ahead for me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to protect me, God's way before me, God's shield to defend me, God's host to deliver me...
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me; Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me; Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me; Christ in my lying, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising; Christ in the heart of all who think of me, Christ on the tongue of all who speak to me, Christ in the eye of all who see me, Christ in the ear of all who hear me."
One of the things that is so attractive about the faith of the first Irish Christians is their conviction that God is always near. They believed that God was always present, and God could be found in each moment. They were certain that God filled us, God surrounded us, and God went ahead of us. No activity, no moment of the day, no encounter, and no person was devoid of Christ's presence. God wasn't confined to church; God was a reality that pervaded every aspect of life.
I'm convinced that the Irish were right—there is no place we can go where God isn't present, and no moment of our day where God can't be found. Yet how often are we aware of that? When we wash the dishes, are we aware of God's constant love for us? When we talk with a stranger in the grocery store, are we conscious that God might be working through our conversation? When we lie down to sleep at night, are we thankful that God still holds us in his care even as we drift off to sleep? Whether we realize it or not, God is present in each of these moments; a key task of spiritual growth is awakening to that reality, and becoming aware of God's nearness to us.
As you go through your day, I'd challenge you to try this experiment: see if you can remain aware of God's presence. If it's hard for you to remember, try giving yourself a little reminder (like setting an alarm or two on your phone, or tying a string to your finger). Take several moments during your day to pause, and to remember that Christ is present in that moment—no matter what you're doing or how trivial it may be. God is always with us; once we realize that, we start to see our daily lives in a different light.