If a Tree Falls in the Forest…
If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? As a Philosophy Minor in my undergrad degree I was accustomed to these sorts of questions. Of course, scientifically speaking the answer is yes. The point of the question isn’t to dispute science but to explore the whole arena of knowing. How do we know what we know? Without a doubt, experience is the cornerstone of our knowing. Our senses connect us to the world and become the vehicles through which we know about our life and world. This is reliable for our physical and emotional intelligence, but it can be less reliable when it comes to spiritual experience. If we don’t ‘experience’ God’s presence in our life, is God really there? This is a common question for many. It requires a leap of faith to believe the promise of God’s presence when there isn’t some level of experience to back it up.
God Is Always Here
Many of the stories we know in Scripture and the ways we often interpret them can work at cross purpose with the promise of God’s eternal presence with us. As we are considering Jacob’s life, as a mirror into our own life with God, the story of the dream that inspires the image of Jacob’s Ladder, it is easy for us to default to the idea that God just “showed up” in Jacob’s dream. This idea can easily lead us to assume that God wasn’t there before. Maybe it’s easy to assume this when we consider what an irredeemable figure Jacob is prior to this moment. I’m not so sure about this. I’m not sure that a God who appears to slide in and out of people’s live, randomly showing up and presumably leaving, inspires much confidence. I’ve come to the conclusion in my faith that any perceived absence of God says more about where we are in our life at any given moment.
Sometimes It’s Hard to See
There are so many things that contribute to a lack of awareness of God. When we are busy, distracted, angry, broken, apathetic, etc., it can be hard for us to see where and how God is present in our life. In other words, life sometimes make it hard to see God. It is particularly in these moments when the leap of faith is most important. Embracing the presence of God in these moments, even when we don’t feel it, opens doors for us. These moments are invitations to expand our thinking, to look beyond what we think we know. For Jacob, this dream is the first step into a larger world of relationship with God that he will spend the rest of his life living into. For us, in 2020, with all the chaos that swirls around us, the same is true. God is present for us in this moment to inspire us and encourage us to see new ways of loving God and loving our neighbors. God is present…inspiring us to expand our conception of who we are, individually and as a community of faith. God hasn’t just now shown up. God has been here before and throughout…strengthening and encouraging us to take on this moment.