The Reality Of God’s Love And Presence
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:24
It is hard for us, even in faith, to put into words the reality of God’s love and presence. We know it, beyond our ability to explain it. It is real, beyond our words to express it. It effects us, changes us, makes us bow in humble recognition of our smallness, yet not in a meek and cowering sense, but in the confidence of recognizing that we are, despite ourselves, loved unconditionally. We know the liberation of His forgiveness, beyond words and we are moved by it to be larger, deeper, more loving and compassionate in our relationships with both friends and enemies.
In her book, “The Stream and the Sapphire,” the poet Denise Levertov includes a small poem that touches on this inexpressible “surprise” of faith. She called it, “Suspended.” Poetry always uses language, words, differently, to reveal what is behind language and words. It uses the instruments of metaphor, and simile, making simple words and images reveal profound ideas and transcendent meaning.
In “Suspended” she implies the story of the woman who reached out in the crowd to touch Jesus’ garment, believing that in that simple gesture, she would be healed. When Jesus responded, knowing he had been touched, feeling healing energy surging forth from him, he sees in the woman’s eyes the depth of her faith and hope. He tells her that her faith, not her act of “touching,” has healed her. The touching was simply her affirmative action in response to her faith.
Denise Levertov becomes the woman in this little poem and reveals another truth. We are fragile and sometimes we slip, we begin to fall, but God’s love, his ‘everlasting arms’ still uphold us, even if our faith is the smallest of embers within us. Here is her poem:
I had grasped God’s garment in the void
but my hand slipped
on the rich silk of it.
The ‘everlasting arms’ my sister loved to remember
must have upheld my leaden weight
from falling, even so,
for though I claw at empty air and feel
nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummeted.
Sometimes we fail and fall and, in desperation, we cry out to God, but we ‘feel’ as though we are clawing “at empty air and feel nothing.” We do not feel the physical touch, the warm, strong grasp and embrace we so dearly crave, yet, somehow, we gradually, but consciously, become aware, through grace, that we have not “plummeted.” The problem may still be with us, but somehow, we are stronger. Our desperation has diminished and we find a way to deal with it more profitably, more completely, more ‘grace’-fully.” We realize, in faith, that His ‘everlasting arms,’ though they are not ‘felt,’ do indeed, hold us up. In this fact, we can rightly put our faith. Thanks be to our Loving God.