The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

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Feeling the Presence of God

I posted this in a response to Sunday's Wrap Up, but was told I should repost it here so the comments don't get too long.

Sarah mentioned "an absence of God's presence" and I've heard a lot about feeling "God's presence" lately it seems. Even Peter Rollins talked about how once you've experienced God then you are able to notice his absence. He said it is like someone waiting for a friend at a coffee shop. If you are the person waiting then you distinctly feel that person's absence, but nobody else in the room feels their absence because they don't know them.

Someone said God's presence is always with us and I at first unthinkingly agreed because that sounds nice and I was taught that fancy word omnipresent. I do remember struggling to figure out God's presence in hell, but found some sort of work-around.

Anyway I can only remember a very few times thinking/feeling "God is present here" and those were times when I was completely alone and I can never remember thinking/feeling "God is absent here". So I guess my question is: what is that feeling like? do other people have that feeling? How do you know when you're having that feeling? Is it like a sensation in your body or just a thought in your mind?

I'm curious especially in conjunction with what Pete was saying that maybe I haven't experienced God in such a way to make me feel His absence. Or is this some kind of indescribable pentecostal invention to legitimize or illegitimize different expressions of faith? Or am I missing the point?


NancyJ said...

What an interesting post. Thanks Zack.

I have been thinking a lot about Rob Bell's video from last week and the idea of everything being Holy Ground.

I thought about all of the people in the world who are starving and in desperate need. Are they standing on Holy Ground?

And then--what of the Jews during the Holocaust in prison camps? Was this Holy Ground as well?

There are times when my questions to God meet with silence (at least it feels like that). There have been times when I have asked for mercy and received no relief.

God feels absent at those times.

I don't believe God is actually absent, but when I feel abandoned, my need for God becomes relentless.

Maybe the places and times when God seems absent are among the holiest of all.

And still...even though we know You are here--God come.

Evelyn said...

Serendipity! Just having this discussion with friends while talking about the letters of Mother Teresa who felt desolate from God for nearly the last 50 yrs of her life. Is mature faith and love living in relationship without 'feeling' the presence of god? Mother Teresa was so confident that she was able to continue steadfastly.
For me, when I have that feeling of cold hostility that is the absence of God. When someone says that a place feels evil - I believe they are sensing the absence of god in that sense. The Dark Night of the Soul is a different absence - it is that loss of intimacy. Watchman Nee has a whole chapter on the 'feeling' of closeness as a trap in the spiritual life. The Spiritual Man Vol II.

Eve said...

It seems like the importance of and the experiences of God's (un)presence vary for everyone.

I think I base a lot of my "God feelings" on peace in situations. (and sometimes I get tiny shivers) but in all honesty I'm starting to think those are only merciful reminders of His ever presence and not "hey, Eve, I'm here now" ideas. And let's be honest, we know I'm scattered. I need reminders. Maybe others don't need that as much. Maybe the reality (whatever that is) of God's presence is more forefront for others always.

I really like Nancy's comment "when I feel abandoned, my need for God becomes relentless. Maybe the places and times when God seems absent are among the holiest of all."

that seems so like God to have the most absent times be the holiest doesn't it? so beautifully baffling

For one thing, I do feel like "absent" times are different types of growing times. Like when Zack was away in Australia (and beyond)I would read and reread his letters, look at his pictures, etc. studying him out because he was gone and i wanted him near. He was enough "with me" to keep me missing him more.
Similarly, when I feel like God's "away" that's when I am at unrest. I'm bothered that He doesn't feel near because i don't feel His peace, His reminders.