One of the questions that recurs in Christian life is, ‘where is God in this?’ It is a simple question. It can be an infuriating question. It took me a long time to learn to be thankful for the person who asked me it at the most provoking and irritating times; and even longer to learn to ask it for myself.
As a priest, the ‘where is God in this’ question often hovers around the relationship between what I do and who I am in relation to God. How do you separate out the prayer you need to engage in to grow and sustain a relationship with God from the prayer that is part of what you are called and required to do? How do you find time to read the bible or study theology for its own sake rather than as sermon fodder, teaching resource, or pastoral aid? Where is the line between ‘private’ and ‘professional’? Does it, or should it, exist?
When life gets busy (when isn’t it busy?), it’s too easy to go through the motions — to churn out sermons and discussion plans and agendas and prayers without ever knowing if I’ve connected with God at all. No that’s not right. It isn’t easy at all. Because as soon as I begin to slip down that path, I know it’s wrong. It’s not what I want, what I have chosen or been called to. But it can so easily happen despite that.
So, there is always the question: ‘where is God in this?’ A ruthless quest for honesty and integrity.
But something is just dawning on me on day 9 of my holidays. I am beginning to miss all that stuff that has been driving me crazy. No, I’m not ready to go back to work. No, I haven’t been thinking about my sermon for Sunday. But I am beginning to feel an absence.
And absence is good.
Absence is longing.
And longing provokes prayer and growth and more longing.
Maybe God is in the endless round of sermons more than I realise. Maybe all the things that seem to get in the way of God — or get in my way of God — are indeed a part of how God gives himself, part of my learning faithfulness.
Of course, I would have claimed to know that all along.
But sometimes I forget.
So in a week’s time, when I’m lost under the 6 page to-do list and all the un-filed filing, someone remind me please.