Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking.
~ Ezekiel 1:28
This week during my visits, one of my hospice patients took his hand, placed it on his chest, pointing to his heart shared, "Jesus is in here."
He then took his hand and placed it on my chest and shared, "And Jesus is in here."
The experience was both humbling and sacred.
So often when I talk with people about their faith, I will often ask, "Where were you, and how old were you the first time you felt, or recognized, God being present?"
All of us can recall our first "puppy love" experience, or the time we experienced loss. Love, grief, happy, excitement, being afraid, are just a few examples of experiences or emotions we can generally recall when asked about, as far as first times felt. When was it in your life when YOU encountered God for the first time?
For me, I have had to think about this. I grew up with religious people. My grandfather was a pastor. My dad directed a church choir. We lived next door to a church a number of years. My first grade teacher was my pastor's wife. My dad and his brothers often sang hymns, and my great grandmother would sit on her front sun porch every afternoon, read her Bible, and pray, sometimes even aloud as I quietly napped in the next room.
You might say I have never "not known" about God or who Jesus is my whole life. It wasn't really until some events happened in my teens that I realized that God wasn't just someone we talked and prayed about. God was also someone I needed to have a relationship with.
Just like meeting a person for the first time, there existed a "getting to know you phase."
While God has known each of us our entire lives, even while we were being "knit in our mother's womb," we haven't been so focused.
A relationship exists when two people take the time to get to know one another. Our experience with God is very much the same way.
I laughed out loud a few years ago watching a movie. The main character moved to a new town. A person who the character met began asking questions about her. "Do you have a husband? Are you married?" and then the most important, "And have you found Jesus?"
After a few moments of silence, the main character turns to her and says, "I didn't know he was missing."
I chuckled. I laughed out loud because I have met folks who ask that question, and I have certainly met people who would respond exactly the way the character did!
The relationship with God is even one that an atheist can explain. In my profession I have encountered folks who proclaim to be atheists. When they meet me, they will often throw up walls and proclaim that I won't change them. I have learned these folks are often more likely to have a relationship with God than not. It's often easier to say, "I don't believe," rather than try to explain a relationship they struggle to understand. Often I comment, "No worries here. Atheism is your faith, and that is how I will treat it."
It makes people stop and think. I go on, "You have really thought about this, and you have had to be lead to a place where you deny the existence of God. That is your journey, and your choice."
So often people get stuck on the idea that someone could even say they are an atheist. For me, it is another opportunity to hear someone's faith journey. You see, like the rainbow that exists in a cloudless sky, God is always present, even in places you don't expect, or in ways you can't imagine. For some of us, having a relationship with God means that you must proclaim to believe in someone you have never seen.
In the darkness of our mother's womb, in the dawn of a new day, the setting of the sun, or in the question of whether we have found Jesus, the God of all creation simply waits for us to ask, "Are you there?"
Whether we are ready or not, or whether we really believe or not, God is always responding, "Yes."
It is up to us then to begin talking.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.