One of the things that defines the interior journey is our sense of the nearness of God. Unfortunately though we may not have received teaching in our early religious formation that encourages an intimate relationship with God.
Many of us grew up with teaching that viewed God as an entirely separate entity from ourselves. Maybe we learnt that God was somewhere out there in some geographical heaven looking down on us and perhaps this remote God was even said to be a judging God whose love for us was conditional upon our adherence to a set of rules. Perhaps we found these implied rules somewhat difficult to keep and thus spent a good deal of time feeling guilt or shame, and maybe in order to escape such feelings we turned our back on religious life altogether.
But a closer look at scripture shows us a very different view of God, one that is much more intimate, and much more loving.
Psalm 139:7-10…Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If ascend to heaven you are there; If I make my bed in Sheol you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea even there your right hand shall hold me fast…..
Acts 17:27-28…’God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for him and find him through he is not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being’
Jeremiah 23:23 “Am I a God who is near” declares the Lord “And not a God far off?”
Luke 20:21… Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. His answer was, “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. No one will say ‘look, here it is’ or ‘there it is’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.”
Paul was in no doubt as to the nearness of God…
Galatians 2:20 “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”
And of course Jesus was very clear about just how close he experienced that relationship;
John 10:30…”I and the Father are one”
The trajectory of the interior journey then is one in which we find ourselves experiencing an ever closer relationship with God. It’s not that we are actually moving closer to God but rather that we are waking up to the God whose ground resides in every single soul…no matter who we are!
The more awake to God’s inner presence we become the more certitude we have of this inner reality. As we make the turn inwards and begin to discover God at the core of our being we begin to discover God as a direct experience rather than an external entity that we learn about. This is the key shift in our relationship with God. Knowing about God is entirely different order of things than experiencing God’s movement in the soul…The contemplative path is the one that takes us ever deeper into that experience, or to use another metaphor, one that is a continuing awakening to the fullness of God’s presence which is ultimately experienced as the mystic union.
Many believe this to be a path for only a chosen few, such as the great mystics or those in holy orders but nothing could be further from the truth. There is no soul in which, in its inmost parts, God’s ground is not present. There is no soul for which God does not desire this awakening and, if we could but know it, there is no soul which does not long for union with God…albeit that longing is often way beyond our awareness. The path however is a narrow one and depends upon our desire to seek God in the first place and an ever increasing willingness to let go of the things of this world and all our attempts to control it. In this kenotic humility the path opens up and we find ourselves awakening to the sublime experience of that precious presence.
Growing that desire to know God is helped by developing a sense of awe and wonder at our very existence, at creation and at the infinite generosity of God which, if we knew how to focus, would become very apparent even in our breathing, our moving our seeing and our speaking, for, as Psalm 139 tells us;
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you who knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.