Where are you, God?
Introduction to Amid Passing Things: Life, Prayer, and Relationship with God by Jeremiah Shryock.
Like many people, I have often asked, “Where are you, God?” Over the years, I have found the answer to that question in varied places: in prayer, study, the sacraments, the poor, my Franciscan brothers, nature, and friendships. These are all, in some way, the more “obvious” places where anyone can find God. Still, although I feel that I’ve had many moments of personal, lasting discovering, providing real encounters with God’s presence, I have also realized that these moments are generally few and far between.
My life as a Franciscan consists of three to four hours of prayer a day; an hour or two working on behalf of the poor, a friend, or a fellow Franciscan; and an hour or so in the evening for spiritual reading or study. If I add up all that time in these “moments of God’s presence,” it equals about a third of each day. What about the other two-thirds? Where is God during those times?
What’s ironic about asking God, “Where are you?” is that this is the first question God asks in the Bible. Shortly after the Fall in the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve, aware of their misdeed, try to run away and hide. God asks Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Just in case we think God has lost sight of Adam and Eve, or that they are simply playing a game of hide-and-seek, this question is not concerned with geographical location. God is asking our spiritual parents, “Why have you forgotten about me?”
Forgetfulness appears to be a common trait, not only for the people in the Bible, but for all of us. Before we even utter our “Where are you, God?” he has already asked us, “Where are you?”—reminding us that life is not a matter of God’s being absent, but of our being absent to God.
If this is true, then it appears the great work of life needs to be learning to pay attention to God. Since our “spiritual lives” are only a small fraction of our whole lives, we must look for God in all of life and not merely reduce him to Sunday morning or times of prayer and reflection. Reducing God to merely “spiritual moments” limits God and the full life he wants to share with us.
This collection of thoughts and reflections is the result of my own desire for a deeper intimacy with God and the realization that this intimacy occurs not necessarily by becoming more spiritual, but by becoming more human, and accepting the mystery and wonder that each moment provides.
I have decided to call the book Amid Passing Things because it is here, in this world that “is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31), where God meets us. So often I have viewed the world as an obstacle to my relationship with God. If only I weren’t stuck in this traffic jam, or if only I weren’t so busy, or if only I weren’t placed in these circumstances, I have thought, then I could really be holy. What I am beginning to discover is that the circumstances and the situations of life are not an obstacle, but actually a bridge, where God comes to meet us. This book is a mere reflection of that awakening.