Looking for God in All Places

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Sometimes the title for a piece comes before the rest of my writing and tells me what I’m going to write. Other times it comes as the last thing. Tonight it’s the first. I thought about “Looking for God in all the Right Places,” but, then again, that’s the problem. People frequently assume that God is to be found in “religious” places, as though those were the places He would most like to hang around. There is a sacramental side to that – and many holy places are just that – holy places and have been places of pilgrimage and conversion.

But it can too easily be assumed that God is in those places and not in others – when in fact He is “everywhere present and fills all things,” (from the prayer, “O, Heavenly King”). Ignoring this is just another subtle way to create a two-storey universe or a bifurcated world, a world where God is in this place, but not in that. With such distinctions we’ll have recreated the entire mess of secularism.

The foremost place for finding God is within our own heart – for if we do not find Him there, we will likely not find Him anywhere. God is made known to us in Scripture, and yet a heart that rejects God, or a heart that harbors hatred, will not likely find Him there, either. The same is true of every “holy” place and every “holy” thing. In the Orthodox Liturgy the priest lifts the consecrated Body of Christ from the diskos and proclaims, “The Holy Things are for the holy.” This is a specific reference within the Eucharist, but it is also true generally in our lives. My heart doesn’t need to be perfect by any means, but there must be some corner, some place where I will welcome God for Him to enter into that most sacred of all created places, the human heart.

I have written over the past week about icons – they can be marvelous “windows to heaven,” but they will be opaque and closed to our viewing unless our hearts are ready to see. By the same token, and with much greater difficulty, God is present and made known to us in the most frightful suffering the world knows (as well as the less frightful) – for He is a God who has not absented Himself from human suffering but has, instead, united Himself with it. We have a tendency to see human tragedy and cry, “Where is God?” I think of this as standing before the foot of the Cross with the dead body of Jesus hanging on it and shouting the same. He is as present in all human suffering as He was and is in His suffering on the Cross. Again, it is a great heart that can see His presence in such circumstances.

Which brings me back to my title. We should be looking for God in all the right places – but if we have the eyes to see, we will understand that all the right places is all places. Thanks be to God.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


Comments

5 responses to “Looking for God in All Places”

  1. Tim Kurek Avatar

    Encouraging blog. I wholeheartedly believe that the act of searching for God ends the moment that one decides to search, and then God becomes evident in everything, everywhere. His handiwork is unmistakable and His glory shines through creation, through us, through life itself. God bless.

    http://uriahministries.wordpress.com

    tim kurek

  2. StSusannatheMartyr Avatar
    StSusannatheMartyr

    Father, bless.

    Thank you for this very good post, Father. And I understand what you are saying, on a theoretical and theological level. But on a practical level, I can’t help but think that there are some places to look for God that are more appropriate, more holy than others. And that there are truly unholy places that we should be cautious about our hearts and the rest of us entering into at all.

    I fear that emphasizing that God is everywhere can be twisted by some into thinking that it means we don’t really have to change our lifestyles at all because we can still find God in all of our familiar sinful haunts or we can still have some corner of our hearts reserved for God while the rest of us goes into unholy places, and watches and listens to unholy things, on the off-chance that we might catch some glimpse of God. And so while we can find Him everywhere, aren’t we still responsible for where He finds us?

    In other words, I see this issue of where to look for God to be very much related to whether we are in the world but not of it.

  3. Fr Ronald Avatar
    Fr Ronald

    Dear Father,

    Glory to Jesus Christ!

    I hope I’m not out of line sharing a brief story that comes from my first meeting with my spiritual father (who is an Orthodox priest). He asked me to describe my prayer life, and told him that it was a classical Anglican prayer life rooted in the Daily Office, Mass, and personal prayer. When he asked about personal prayer, I mentioned, among other things, the various “arrow prayers” I offer during the day. He inquired about this and I said something like, “you know, like shooting an arrow up into the air.” He smiled and said, “So your prayers always go [i] up [/i], do they?”

    Having read a number of your writings on this issue, I knew immediately what his question (and smile) was about!

    Moving out of a two-storey house is difficult when you’ve lived there for a long time:-)

    Thanks for another illuminating post.

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    StSussanatheMartyr,

    Indeed, and of course. But if you are looking for God, actually looking for God, and not playing games and not doing something else and saying you’re looking for God, then things will fall into place. We have liberty and it should not be an occasion for the flesh as St. Paul says.

  5. Margaret Avatar
    Margaret

    I have found writings of St. Theophan the Recluse to be helpful with this.

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