It was a nice picture. And it made me think about my own experience of 'finding God'. (My first guess; God finds us).
Whilst Granola gives me heartburn and I don't like cats, the picture represented my ideas in the past; when I was studying theology I thought that God could be found in the Library, in the Bible, systematic theology books, at lectures and church. And I think there is truth in this.
However, slowly I began to realise it's impossible to know God is love without experiencing him. So I kept searching…
My husband helped me to discover prayer. And I think prayer is a way of discovering God. But for me, through prayer I've discovered more about the way I view God than about God himself (I'm a work in progress).
Then in my third year of study, one theology lecturer told my class (for an entire semester) to find God by going to the 'Wedding in Cana'. I spent a semester trying to work out what this meant. Slowly I began to think God could also be found amongst the suffering; at the Church for homeless people in Melbourne I went to and then amongst grieving parents in a SIDS and Kids support group.
I think this is true. But over the last year I've come to realise I was still too limited in how I thought God could be found in experiences.
I now think that the path to discovering God is even wider, as I've gained more understanding of Eastern Orthodox and Catholic traditions. Many believed that finding God cannot be done simply with rationalism and consuming knowledge. And the experience they talk about isn't just with other people like the hurting and marginalised; it's also about finding God in silence and contemplation, anti-consumerism and what I want to focus on now, living in the present moment.
The Sacrament of the Present Moment
Living in the present moment is something positive psychology is now claiming is very good for our well-being. Don't live too much in the past or be filled with anxiety over the future. Live in the now. That seems to make sense.
I think it's also integral to a spiritual life.
Thomas Merton was a Franciscan who lived in a monastery and is a renowned spiritual writer from the 20th century. Merton focused a lot on living in the present in his writings. He wrote, 'You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognise the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope."
And then at some point I stumbled upon the writings of Jean-Pierre de Caussade, who was a French Jesuit Priest in the 18th century. He wrote a book entitled 'The Sacrament of the Present Moment'. The books premise is that living in the present moment is such a way to discover God it could be seen as sacramental. A sacrament is a visible representation of the invisible grace God gives to us. The book is by no means an easy read, but it intrigued me greatly to think that I can discover God by living in the moment.
Why I like the Sacrament of the Present Moment
I am not good at living in the present moment. I spend too much time worrying about the future, upset over the past or wishing I was somewhere else. But I have had experiences of living in the present.
When I was 6 months pregnant with both of my sons I was told they would die at some point, before or in the weeks after birth. I had an overwhelming desire to enjoy their short lives, and avoid living in terror of the future that involved the pain of their births and deaths. And so during these months I found myself living in the present moment.
I have to say that while living in the present moment, there was still heartache. But there are blessings. Time slows down. There was no hurry. There was no preoccupation with rightness or wrongness. Or fear of aloneness. There is no fighting. Past pains were insignificant, future anxieties unnecessary. There just isn't that stuff that usually distracts me from love, and from God.
Living in the present moment colours were more radiant. The sight of a tree swaying in the breeze would make my heart skip a beat. I only ate a little bit of food because I tasted every mouthful so fully. I felt love so intensely in my body, I became love sick just by sitting next to my husband. I had a lot of contentment and joy. I felt God was so close I didn't have fears, even the fear of death.
This is a time of my life that I think about often, sometimes desperately craving to go back. To me it makes sense that I would have fullness of life in the present moment, but why a closeness to God?
As I've sat in wonder at this for months I've come to think it is because when I am living in the present moment I realise God is everywhere. God is in all things. God surrounds me. God is so close; love is so close, wrapped up in every moment. And so I discover God continually and intimately in every moment of my ordinary life.
Danielle Carney has a degree in Theology, is now studying again and resides on the Gold Coast.
Danielle's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/danielle-carney.html