I don’t consider myself to be a spiritually sophisticated person. Actually, I’ve often thought that if I were given a pop quiz on my theological knowledge, I would be hastily removed from any sort of church leadership. That’s not to say that I don’t value a strong understanding of my faith; in fact, whenever I do spend time in deep study, I feel much more connected with God. It’s just that with time I’ve come to feel God’s presence the strongest through experiences and relationships.
The idea that God is “relational” fundamentally shifts my ideas about who God is. I heard a talk not too long ago by Diana Butler who used the metaphor of God moving from the mountains and into the city. A God in the mountains is far away, scary, and inaccessible. He is certainly not relational, and the only way to gain access to this God is through the “holy elevator” of religious doctrine. A God in the city is close, comforting, and gets his hands dirty. When God moves down from the mountain and into the city, it creates a good deal of angst for religious organizations, because now God is accessible to everyone without the need for holy elevator operators.
A God in the city is close, comforting, and gets his hands dirty.
A God in the city is experienced in new ways. He can be felt through the winds of affection stirring among our closest relationships. He is found in visions of transcendence that fill our minds as we contemplate the vastness of the horizon. He’s found when our sweaty, gritty hands turn over warm, dark soil in preparation for laying down seeds of new life. When God is in the city, we find Him easily by asking “in what ways is God working in this very moment?”.
And so it doesn’t require spiritual sophistication to find God. In my experience, the search for spiritual sophistication can actually get in the way. Lately I’ve been searching for God in the city, where he is much more easily found.
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." Job 12: 7-10