Reading the scriptures, it is obvious that our God is a God who calls. We read of God calling a hesitant Moses, calling an almost-defiant Jonah, and calling (and converting) Paul to proclaim Christ to the Gentiles, to name just a few. God's call in Genesis (Chap. 12) to Abraham (then called Abram) provided the seed for three of the world's major religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
In Part I of this Reflection, I wrote of how God may have called us in the past, calls us today, and even "Calls from Tomorrow." Since responding to God's call can involve major changes in our lives, often significant relocation, in this Part II, I'll look at a belief that can helps us respond to God's call. That is the omnipresence of God.
Most of us take for granted the omnipresence of God ... we really don't think about it: God is everywhere! (It wasn't always like this. In the Related Interest resources, see the comments on Ezekiel's Wheel.) Personally, I sense this omnipresence in two dimensions. One is of time: God was with me and called in the past, is with me, and will continue to be with me in the future. The other dimension relates to space and place: I do not have to worry about where I am or where I go, God will be there. The discomfort of relocating, whether because of a job or a sense of "call" is eased with the knowledge that God is "there" as well as "here." The psalmist had a strong sense of God being with us wherever we are: "(even) if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there." (Psalm 139)
All this might evoke a sense of, "Duh. Yeah, God is everywhere, was and will be everywhere. Why a too-long paragraph about it, Keith?" Well, a "duh" might be appropriate. But, sometimes when we take for granted a profound thought, like God is everywhere, it loses its power for our lives. For me, "putting some flesh" onto a belief can move it from an abstract, lofty belief to something concrete and meaningful in the everyday. Something that will make the belief become real and a part of me. Let me try.
I've lived in a number of places in the United States. (See the FAQs about my background.) For nineteen years before moving to Pennsylvania, we lived in Wyoming. Often, when I think of the Wyoming days, I am transported to a favorite trout fishing spot just a few minutes from our town of Glenrock. The spot was near some big boulders at a bend in Deer Creek on Skinny Thornton's ranch. Although Skinny gave me unlimited permission to fish, I usually did stop and ask, not only to keep in good graces, but Skinny was just a good man and it felt good to be around him. When my mind's eye looks back there, I see God sitting on one of those boulders, fly rod at rest and wader's feet dangling in the current. God's big arm waves and motions me over.
"Hey Keith, have a seat on that other rock. Remember we talked here a lot ... mostly fished, though. You wanted me to teach you fly fishing, but you never got the hang of it ... probably best you stayed with your spinners." Yeah, I always wondered why you didn't make me a bit more coordinated. Hey, you're back here in Wyoming now? ... Or is it back there then? "I don't understand the question." I don't know that I understand my question either.
"You probably heard that Skinny isn't here any longer. He's with me up above ... been a number of years. But, the new guy still gives permission for some people to fish, though he makes you fill out forms and stuff. I'm glad I can just pop in when I want." I guess rank does have its privileges.
"Remember when you were frustrated with the principal job here in Glenrock, and I nudged you that maybe it was time to move or try something different?" I don't think I ever properly thanked you; wasn't sure it was your nudge or just my frustration stirring me. "Sometimes hard to tell the difference." You don't always make it easy to know. ... I guess you're not going to explain. "Have to say I was surprised when you decided to move to Philadelphia's Main Line. Didn't seem like a place you'd think of." Well, that was after you closed the door on that job in Kentucky! "Hey, you blew that interview all by yourself! Don't put that one on me." I was pretty upset with you after that disappointment. "But, you did well as principal at that Main Line school. I was proud of you." Wish you had told me that back then ... I always wondered whether you thought I was doing a good job. But, thanks for those lunch-time talks we had across the street in the Baptist church's lobby ... got me through many tough days at the middle school.
"I better get back to casting in that eddy over there on the other side ... have my eye on a nice rainbow, but it's a wily one. And you should go ... don't forget you have to pick up your son soon back at the Devon Acme." How do you know ...? Oh, never mind. Guess it's what you often said about yourself: 'Yesterday, today, tomorrow,' right? "I like the way John has the Son say it poetically in Revelation: 'I am the Alpha and the Omega ... who is and who was, and who is to come.'"
God with us, along our dimension of time. And, the omnipresence of God with us along the dimensions of space and place.
A number of years ago, when she lived in Guatemala, my niece, Diana, and I began a spiritual-related email relationship. She had faith-type questions, and our back-and-forth emails seemed to help her wrestling, and I know writing them helped me clarify my own beliefs. Those dialogues were the seeds of this Reflections website. I remember one email thread that had to do with this "God is everywhere" belief and seemed to make it very real.
Diana had just completed a PhD in Nutrition and Food Systems at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, and she and her husband Boler were trying to decide next steps. Of particular importance was, "Where is God calling us?" They could stay in Hattiesburg where Diana had already been offered a position at SMU. Or a position at Marywood University in Scranton, PA; or another at the University of Akron in Ohio. All possibilities were good and attractive; but, worry about "reading" God's call correctly was leading only to indecision. "Uncle Keith, help!" came the call. Although I had my thoughts about what was best, my choice wasn't what they needed. They needed help with this "Where is God calling us?" issue. All I could do was give my way of viewing such things, and it had to do with "God is everywhere."
Dear Boler and Diana: maybe God isn't concerned about the "where" in this. Maybe God is more concerned about what you do when you get there. God is in all those places and will be with you. Picture this: God is up there in Scranton and saying, "Realize it is cold here a lot, but if you come, I have some ideas of what we can do together. You know I am over here in Akron, too. There is a lot to do here; but realize it is Akron! And, you already know I am down here in Mississippi. We've done some good things here together. I am also in whatever other place you might get an offer or consider."
Diana and Boler, I realize this is a difficult decision. I'm not saying to leave God out of the picture ... Knowing you, God will always be in the picture. Free yourselves to use the decision-making skills God gave you. In this situation, there isn't a right and a wrong decision. Be free to know that as you trust God, God trusts you. And God will be there ... wherever 'there' is. And, wherever 'there' will be.
Boler and Diana ended up that summer moving to Scranton. They've since moved to Ohio, Diana now a professor at the University of Dayton, and Boler with his own auto repair garage in Springfield. Go figure! Those were never on the original list. But, I'm pretty sure God is over there west of Columbus. God is the Alpha, the Omega, the Here, and the There. (Most likely God is in Akron, too!)
Of Related Interest
Most take for granted the omnipresence of God without really thinking about it: God is everywhere! But, that belief was not always so. For the early Israelites, God, like us, was in one place. During the Exodus, as they wandered, they took the tent of God (God's dwelling place) with them. The Tent of Meeting was the portable dwelling place for their God as the Israelites wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt. While many of us might think of going to our church or synagogue building to "meet" God, few think of the building as God's singular dwelling place. But, for the early Isaelites, the place of "meeting" was literal.
King David's transporting the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and Soloman building the temple were key events because those gave God a permanent home. While the Exile and captivity to Babylon was physically a terrible event, it was made even more horrendous because the Jews were separated from their God. God was not with them ... God was back in their homeland. "How can we sing the Lord's song upon alien soil?" (Psalm 137)
During this time, however, the people in exile began to develop the idea of the omnipresence of God ... that God can be in all places. What we take for granted was something new. Interestingly, many scholars think Ezekiel's vision of a Wheel in the sky as a key in this evolution of thought. (An Internet search of "Ezekiel's wheel" and "omnipresence" can show some interesting references.) Anyone who ever went to church camp probably remembers the song, "Ezekiel saw a wheel ... a rollin'... way up in the middle of the air." The "wheel within a wheel" not only represented that God could move, but that God could move in all directions! God is not confined. God can be everywhere.
To me, it is interesting to see how believers' picture of God has evolved over the ages. (If we believe that God does not change, then it must be our perceptions and understandings that evolve.) From God identified with one nation and dwelling in one place to a God for all peoples and omnipresent in time and space, our understanding changes. Some of what we today take for granted in our understanding of God, at one time never even existed in the minds of believers. It makes me wonder about which ideas and beliefs we wrestle with today that our children's children will scratch their heads and say, "Didn't they know that?"