The Power of Presence

I was sought by those who did not ask for Me;
I was found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”

To a nation that was not called by My name.
Isaiah 65:1

I frequently listen to the podcasts published by The Word Church in Lloydminster, CA. On April 5—a Friday night—an American evangelist named Dennis Burke delivered a sermon in which he talked about God granting us access to His presence and desiring to be in our presence. It’s a beautiful message, and I highly recommend listening to it if you have an hour or so to spare. Dr. Burke’s idea that the place Jesus prepared for his followers (John 14:3) is, in fact, in the presence of God so affected me that I now view many familiar Scriptures in a new light.

The presence of God has been on my mind anyway. A half-dozen years ago, the Paris Review published an essay titled “Letter from Williamsburg” in which a young woman wrote about her journey away from believing in God. Actually, her decision to stop believing was abrupt, although it seemed to take some effort to stick with it afterward. She said the most difficult thing to explain away was His presence. The ecstasy of Him. The joy in Him. And particularly the way being in God’s presence changes people for the better, including her.

I know exactly what she means. I remember my first time in His presence—how primal the moment was. Like going back to a previously unknown place, a place from which I had come before I had come from anywhere else, including my mother’s womb.

Last year, when I made the final manuscript revisions for my debut novel, ALL IN, God’s presence emerged as an important theme. Not as evidence of His existence. Not even as a reason for conversion. I daresay, no one enters God presence unless they’ve already crossed the bridge to believing. His presence is a benefit of believing. One might say His presence is the pledge He gives to believers now. The pledge of what’s coming later, when we go to that place Jesus prepared for us. Until then, He gives us His Spirit. He gives us Himself.

It’s difficult for me to imagine internal conflict so great that my resolution of it is deciding that God doesn’t exist after all, and therefore, neither do good and evil. Because that is the logical conclusion that immediately follows, at least according to Friedrich Nietzsche. I guess I went a different direction in response to the shame brought on by my own evil thoughts and actions. I decided that no matter how awfully I’d behaved, no matter how vile my thoughts, I would bring them to Him. I would not permit myself to turn away in shame, as I’d done so many times before.

I was young when I made that decision. And now I am old. It’s gotten easier with the years. I don’t know if I’m less given to my passions because I’m older or if so much time in His presence has worn down my ungodliness. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I’m happy I stuck with Him.

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

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