Glynn Cardy wrote an interesting blog entry on the feeling of being abandoned by God. This may be a somewhat difficult subject for Christianity to address, since it can easily be confused with the question of doubt. But, as he points out, even Jesus is reported to have asked why God had forsaken him on the cross. I wonder how many Christians feel sure of God's presence all the time. However, as Glynn Cardy puts it, God is like the wind--we don't see it, but we sense its effects on us:
God blows where it wills. God can’t be wrapped up, domesticated, or walk hand in hand with us. God is more than relational metaphors. Unlike a loving parent, sometimes the wind abandons us and we are left bereft and alone.Religion can be like a drug some times. You get your God fix, you feel God's presence intimately--and then, at some point, somehow, you can feel abandoned by God. The Divine Morphine has been inexplicably removed. You go into withdrawal symptoms. You turn around in circles, trying to figure out where God went.
We went to a playground yesterday with some friends of ours and their two-year-old son. The boy insisted that I accompany him to the slide and go down with him. It is embarrassing to admit this, but I have a terrible fear of heights, and even a tall children's slide makes me nervous. So I didn't go down the slide with him the first time. Instead I took the steps down and met him after he went down. The slide is in the form of a curved tube, so you don't necessarily see the slider emerge until they reach the bottom. As I walked down the steps, I saw the boy looking all around for me, trying to figure out why I wasn't appearing out of the tube at the bottom of the slide.
Maybe we are like that some times when we don't sense God's presence. We look around, searching for God in the places we expect it--but maybe we are not searching where we should be? Perhaps we are simply like that little boy, with our simple understanding, not able to make sense of everything because we can be to God what a small child is to an adult.
I like Glynn Cardy's analogy with the wind. Another, perhaps sillier one also occurs to me--I imagine that God is like the contents of a pastry shop. When you walk past a pastry shop, you take a whiff of the goodies inside, it smells so good, and you walk inside. But your nose acclimates itself to smells over time, and after a while, you take a deep breath, and you don't sense that pleasant smell anymore. The pastries that produced the aromas are still there--but you can't smell them. So then you have to walk away from the pastry shop and come back another time to take in the smells anew.
Does it make sense for religion to be about getting "high" on God? Is God about ecstasy, or achieving a certain kind of conscious state, or feeling good, or feeling solemn, or feeling awed? On the other hand, is there something missing in a religion that has no ecstatic, emotional, or inspirational component? And is there more to feeling God's presence than just those emotional or psychological states?
For me, sometimes, religion is more about feeling a pull. I find myself drawn to it for reasons that I can't explain. There have been times when I honestly felt like I was enveloped in a Divine Presence. And yet I can't deny that often I feel abandoned as well. I live in a world of mundane things, where just getting by from day to day occupies my mind. I cannot escape the fact that I am of this world, even if I find myself often considering a more transcendent reality.