There are many ways God could be present with us.
He could be like a stalker, lurking behind trees, spying on us. The creepy Jesus.
Or the more personal version of that one–right at our elbow, peering over our shoulder, saying, “You missed that spot,” or “It needs more salt.” The Jewish mother Jesus.
We tend to develop our idea of God from parental and other figures in childhood rather than Scripture. Generations of “God is dead” theologians came out of Germany, with its distant authoritative fathers. It figures.
I grew up without any concept of Jesus at all but when I received Him (with joy) at 19 we were tight. We had a continuous conversation going. When grace was said before meals at the Bible college I attended I found myself interrupting that conversation silently with, “Just a minute, Lord. We have to pray now.”
Later, Jesus became more like a shadow, someone attached to me, whom I was more aware of sometimes than other times. He was there but He didn’t do anything. He didn’t speak, He didn’t interfere, He didn’t judge, He didn’t help. He was just–present.
Everyone in my family of origin and my first marriage spent most of their time either reading books or writing them. (But then, so did I.) I had had a mother who wrote children’s books. I could interrupt her if I was bleeding.
I had a husband who, teacher and lifelong student like all the rest of the men in my past, spent most of his time at a desk or sprawled in an easy chair with a book. He said he was “interruptible” but I hardly ever dared.
They were doing important things–and I wasn’t important. Besides, if they wanted to spend time with me, they’d be doing it. Family reunions (at one time there were only five of us in the whole world) consisted of sitting in the same room, each reading a different book–and occasionally sharing favorite bits aloud.
I wrote a two-line poem about our family reunions, a parody of Robert Herrick’s Dreams. His was: “Here we are all, by day; by night, we’re hurled/By dreams, each one, into a sev’ral world.”
My variation was: “Here we are all, yet do not share a world,/For each around a sev’ral book is curled.”
It was comfortable, the closest we got to companionship but it got lonely. That Jesus left me wistful and resentful, by turns.
As for the sit-on-the-lap Santa Claus Jesus, I was repelled by such intimacy. It seemed staged and artificial.
I tried once (not long ago, actually) to see myself doing what I have told many other lonely Christians they are welcome to do–run into the throne room even with muddy hands and feet, even when God is entertaining potentates, and climb up on His lap to hold His face, look into His eyes and get a fatherly squeeze and smile.
When I tried it (in my imagination) two guards stopped me firmly at the entrance with crossed halberds. I even tried crawling under the halberds but the guards dropped them on me like guillotines. As I looked between them I saw God alone in His throne room. He was even yawning and looking at His watch. He was not either too busy for me! But somehow I still wasn’t worth His time.
Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. The Biblical Jesus. Thankfully feelings are irrelevant. The truth is, He’s with me every moment and has all the time in the world for me. He likes hanging out with me! He enjoys my company. He delights over me with singing. As Brother Lawrence says (of himself), I’m His favorite.
God with us. Not judging but steering me away from danger or error. Not on His cell phone. Not playing Angry Birds. Not just interruptible–there is nothing to interrupt. Available, like He wants me to be to Him. Available for consultations. Available for reassurance. Available for hugs. Interested in my opinions, ready to discuss them with me. Walking side-by-side or talking face-to-face. Wanting to watch butterflies and sunsets together and pointing out (as He did for Beth Moore) that since sunsets are His initiating love to us, our response should not be, does not have to be, “I love You, Lord,” but “I love You, too.”