Mar 20 2013

Always Near

_CES1629For all of us there are special places, locations that have unique meaning to us.  After posting images from my recent vacation on Facebook people wrote me saying Savannah, St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island or Isle of Palms was their “favorite place.”  We all have them.  Many of us also have special places that are spiritual in nature.  It might be a church sanctuary, an outdoor “sanctuary” like a lake, desert or mountain, but wherever that spot is we feel close to God.  It’s great to have places where we sense God’s presence but we must be careful that we do not come to believe that we can only meet God or be near to God in those places.

A couple of nights ago I read Psalm 137.  This is at one and the same time a terrifically beautiful and tragic psalm.  Its setting is Israel’s Babylonian captivity.  While in exile Israel’s captors taunted them to sing “the songs of Zion.”  Their response is captured in these words: “How can we sing the song of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (v. 4)  The Jewish people believed God resided in Jerusalem.  They could not imagine singing joyful songs while separated from Him by so many miles.  They were far away from their special place and felt God was distant too.

_CES2137Perhaps there are times in our lives when we are separated from our holy spots and God seems distant.  On such occasions maybe we ought to turn to another psalm, Psalm 139.  Here David says “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (vs. 7-10)   David wisely realized that God is always near.  There is no way we can escape His presence, even if we try.  Centuries later the apostle Paul would echo David’s sentiment.  He boldly affirmed that nothing, “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

OS716Today I, too, want to affirm that God is everywhere and thus may be found and experienced anywhere.  Sure, I have my own special places where I feel close to God but I have also experienced God’s goodness and love everywhere I’ve gone.  Over the past week I felt God near in places as diverse as the Cumberland Island and the Okefenokee Swamp.  I knew God was nearby on the streets of Charleston, South Carolina and on the shores of Jekyll Island.  There is no place I went that God was not present, nor will there ever be.  That is something I can count on.  It’s something that you can count on too.  Believe it or not, God is always near.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Jekyll Island, the middle image at the John & Charles Wesley Memorial Garden on St. Simons Island, and the bottom image at Okefenokee Swamp.)