This week, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders made headlines when she articulated her belief that God wanted Donald Trump to be President. She was instantly mocked or heralded depending upon where your political and religious beliefs fall, but her remarks point to a larger question of how involved God is in our lives. Is God the watch-maker who sets things in motion then steps away? Is God the architect of every mundane happening and random occurrence? Is there even a God at all?
On my best days I believe God is intimately present and inviting us into our most holistic ways of being. Other days I see the pain in people’s lives, or feel the wounds in my own and wonder if sometimes even God is outmatched. Some hurts feel just too deep for God to touch.
As I’ve wrestled with and continued to work through my own pain, I’ve encountered God in new ways through meditation. Meditation has opened me to two new ways of visualizing God’s work in this season of my life, and I’m reminded to follow and release.
The first visualization:
I’m in a place that is pitch-black. So dark that my hand is practically invisible. I see nothing. I feel nothing. There is literally this thick, velvety darkness from which not even light can escape. I am engulfed by it, and I sense that I’m supposed to walk through it. I can’t tell right from left, or up from down, so I have no idea how to navigate this darkness.
As I start to feel overwhelmed, I become aware that there is someone else with me. I can’t see them, but I can feel their hand as it reaches out and grasps mine, gently pulling me forward. This is my silent guide through the midnight fog that paralyzes my senses. I don’t know who the hand belongs to, but I intuitively trust it, and surrender to its guidance. Believing that wherever it is leading me, is where I need to be next.
This journey through darkness requires surrender, but it also requires release. This is where the second visualization comes into play.
I am standing on a shoreline looking out at the water. The waves lap calmly against the shore, advancing then receding much like LeBron’s hairline. As I pay attention to the ebb and flow of the water, I notice that my hands are full. I look down to see that I’m clenching small pebbles, none bigger than a marble. The moment I become aware that I’m holding these pebbles, my attention is drawn back to the water and I sense the waves calling to me. Beckoning me to dip my hands into the water beneath me and slowly open them.
I respond to the call and submerge my hands in the water just enough so that all but the knuckles of my clenched fists are below the surface. Then I open my palms and feel the cool water begin to move through my fingers and into my palms. The pebbles become buoyant and begin to float as I continue to open my palms completely and watch the rocks float away. With empty hands, I continue to allow the water to flow over me as it cleanses, relaxes and restores. This is release.
Each set of imagery reminds me of who I experience God as in my life. God is the hand in the darkness, gently grasping and leading me through; God is the water lapping the shore, slowly beckoning me inward and inviting me to release control. God is often quiet, subtle and direct. Easily ignored, but also plainly recognizable.
Unfortunately, I’d usually rather hold onto my illusions of control than follow and release. The pebbles I’m holding represent my need for love, security, comfort and many other things. I wake up daily trying to manufacture each of them rather than trusting that all I need is already available to me. I search for affirmation, strive to uncover purpose and work to remain comfortable because I think my life is in my hands. If I can stay in control and do everything just right, I’ll have what I need.
As a result, I often ignore the hand in the darkness and the waves on shore in favor of my own way. Despite my resistance, moment by moment the invitations are still present. God never stops inviting me to follow and release.
I don’t know if God interacts with everyone the same way, but I know that at multiple times, she has been present with me before I knew I needed her. Giving me reassurance, reminding me of love, and offering insight. I’ve felt God through the words of a close friend. I’ve felt God through the hug of a mother. I’ve felt God as energy in my body, softly reminding me that I am not alone. Through these and other experiences, I’ve come to trust that even in the darkness of this winter, I have all I need.
I don’t trust people that make claims about whether or not a major event was God’s plan. Such discussions distract us from the work of paying attention to God in this moment. Whether you are a life-long believer or a new atheist, know that you are not alone in your pain. Love won’t allow that.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re experiencing be it major or minor. I invite you to close you eyes and feel the hand in the darkness reaching out even now. Will you take it, and walk?