Can we really feel God?
by Unvirtuous Abbey
Old Testament Reading: Exodus 3: 1-15
For Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011: Year A – Ordinary 22
A close friend of mine is an Atheist who can quote scripture better than I can. He knows church history and he can name the church councils that created creeds and authorized scriptures, and he can speak at length about Christians in the media, whether it’s the latest prediction about the end of the world or a significant comment from a credible source.
When we have coffee together, we talk politics, music, literature, and the current state of Batman in the DC Universe. But I’ve never talked to him directly about what he actually believes and/or doesn’t believe until recently he sent me a message saying, “I don’t believe in God because I’ve never felt God.”
I vividly remember the most spiritual moment I have ever experienced. It had everything a moment like that should have: wilderness, a profound sense of being lost and confused, a stranger, a conversation, and between it all something crystallized in my memory that I, specifically, was not alone.
Yet, if I told that story here, it wouldn’t have the same effect on you. It would simply be a “nice” story. It would be a candidate for Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. But for me, at the time, it gave me the strength and courage I needed to be who I was and to continue on my journey.
That being said, I was still compelled to respond to my Atheist friend by saying: ”I think a lot of people don’t ‘feel’ anything, which is why we ‘do’ so much.
Fax From Heaven
Some say that this is like getting a “fax from heaven.” It usually takes the form of a surprisingly sacred event or personal encounter. In the lives of saints, mystical experiences don’t occur all that often−quite the opposite, in fact. There are often gaps of years between those moments. Yet, when one is confronted with the divine, the experience is consuming.
Being consumed with something is an all too common experience. We are consumed with work. We are consumed with relationships. We are consumed with addictions. But, the passage seems to argue that there is a difference between being consumed “with” something, and being consumed “by.”
I like how at the beginning of Exodus 3 Moses (who will become so much more) is simply taking care of his father-in-law’s flock. No shame in that, but it is an entry-level position when it comes to God-given tasks. Yet, something within Moses calls him forward.
With all of these sheep, he finds himself at the base of the mountain of God, Horeb. One can only imagine what drew him there, but I think we can assume he was consumed with questions−questions about his family back in Egypt, the state of his people, God’s plan for him, etc. No matter what he was consumed with, Moses was about to be consumed by God.
Moses’ seeking led him to a holy conversation with God; a conversation that was marked by holy ground, keeping a distance, taking off shoes, and a feeling of intimacy with the divine that marked Moses for the rest of his life. Perhaps Moses was seeking to be “delivered from” his task but the result was that he was “sent to” God’s people. If being consumed with something is “all about me,” being consumed by something is all about the “other.”
Holy ground still surrounds us. It can be the hospital room where the person you love slowly becomes translucent as they enter the final phase of life. Holy ground is the room in which you have been invited to hear someone’s heart aching. Profound experiences often come in the form of ordinary situations.
The Hardest Question
Have you ever received a fax from heaven? If so, how did it change your life?
Unvirtuous Abbey appeared on the Twitter scene on August 6th, 2010. They are a slightly sarcastic, yet hopeful, group of monks. They try to elevate the conversation with humorous tweets about the Bible, God, and Jesus. They also pray about geeks, Guns and Roses, and Charlie Sheen. They have been interviewed by The Times -Union, The Practical Catholic and the Virtual Abbey. They consider themselves lucky to be among the guest bloggers of “The Hardest Question” and readily trade chores for the chance to write…anonymously, of course.