by Amy Carr
What do you say to those who have no sense of the penumbra of God — but want to do so?
What do you say to those who have never experienced God’s presence, and who wonder whether there is some sort of divine intention behind their inability to do so?
It is one thing to think of the many Christian mystics (among others) who have spoken of vacillations between consolation and desolation, between reasons to trust in God’s concern and feeling as if God has abandoned them, or is merely absent. Some of the psalms (like Psalm 63) testify to the same.
But it is another thing entirely to have never had a sense of the divine to build faith and trust around through every season.
One might take the route of Luther in his Small Catechism’s reflections on the first part of the Apostle’s creed (on God as Creator), and of the long natural law tradition in Catholicism, and ask one to infer a benevolent God behind all the gifts of life and sustenance that mediate God’s own goodness. But it is easy for one such as my friend to reply that this presupposes God’s presence in those gifts themselves.
No, it is an outright direct sense of God’s presence he seeks.
So I am wondering: what would you want to say to my friend — or to anyone who wonders what kind of God would grant a sense of divine presence to some, but not to others?
What you think an experience of God would be? I’ve always loved the Celtic references to “thin places” in space and time. Places or times when there is a sense of mystery, of truth, beauty beyond grasp, wholly beyond any explanation provided by science or reason. John Dewey, American philosopher, wrote a book titled ART AS EXPERIENCE, in which he writes of the religious and aesthetic experiences as “kin.” He says both give us a sense of “the beyond in our midst.” What experiences lead you to use words like ‘awesome,’ majestic, deeply moving, ….?
I shall ask my friend that question, and perhaps post here the gist of his reply….