God's Polypresence

Devotional time, Sunday worship, small group, worship playlist, sermon on Facebook, prayer at breakfast, Christian film, Bible study, book on following Jesus, trip to Jerusalem, marriage ceremony, meeting with the pastor…

What is significant about all of these experiences?  They are places where we intersect with God’s presence.  The Father’s love may become profoundly palpable in the midst of an anointed worship song.  Jesus’s face might seem a bit clearer when a pastor demonstrates Christ-like care for us.  The Spirit may speak a word of affirmation into our being while we assiduously digest the book of 1 Corinthians.

Becoming aware of God’s presence is like waking up from a dream and saying, “Oh yes, now remember what is real.”  Acknowledging the company of the King is like a revitalizing drink of water after exhausting manual labor.  Confessing the reality of the Holy One in a moment is like creaking open a trunk to discover a priceless treasure.

Psalm 139:7-12 says:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there, If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

David is comforted by the loving company of God—David understood the incalculable value of God’s presence.  Though, it seems we may not believe the same truth about God as David.  If David believed what we believe about the presence of God, it is arguable that he would have had his servants lugging the Ark of the Covenant around wherever he went.  Why is this so?

It seems we have traded the truth of God’s omnipresence (present everywhere) for God’s polypresence (present in multiple places).  If quizzed, we would likely say that God is present in all places.  However, our behavior many times seems to communicate that this belief is merely intellectual and not tangible.

Without pronouncing me a heretic, allow me to paraphrase the words of David for the sake of revealing the truth David saw in a more contextual manner:

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence? If I drive out to work, you are there; if I fold my laundry in the den, you are there, if I rise on the elevators of the hospital, If I park myself on the sidelines of my child’s game, even there your hand will touch me, your right hand will comfort me.

If we truly grasp the truth that the Holy Spirit spoke through David, it forces us to realize that our lives are not a matter of finding God’s presence like an oasis in an arid land.  Rather, discovering God’s presence is analogous to drawing back a dusty curtain and letting light come through the window we have overlooked.

Brother Lawrence, a monk from the 17th century, understood the truth of God’s omnipresence in his everyday life.  In his spiritual classic, The Practice of the Presence of God, he says,

The holiest, most common, most necessary practice of the spiritual life is the presence of God, that is to take delight in and become accustomed to His divine company, speaking humbly and talking lovingly with Him at all times, at every moment, without rule or system and especially in times of temptation, suffering, spiritual aridity, disgust and even of unfaithfulness and sin.[i]

How would our lives change if we stopped thinking God’s presence was only connected to things that are “religious” (a devotional time, a church service, a worship song, etc.) and began to realize that God’s presence is available to us in all places?  What if our behavior spoke about God’s omnipresence like our belief did?  What if we spent our entire day with God instead of just part of it?

Starting to live in the omnipresence of God could be as simple as praying something like this: “God, forgive me for the times where I have been too clouded to see you.  Help me to discover your presence that dwells in this day-to-day activity that I am engaging in at this moment.  Help me to have an unceasing conversation with you.  Amen.”

Brother Lawrence said, “He never deserts us unless we desert Him first; let us be fearful of separating ourselves from Him, let us always be with the Him and let us live and die with Him.”[ii]

Jared M. Webb, Assistant Pastor

[i] Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, The Practice of the Presence of God, Translated by John J. Delaney, (Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1977), 101.

[ii] Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, 90.