The other day Eve and I were hanging out at the house. She played with Barbies and her new plastic penguins. I folded laundry and wrote a post.
After a little while she came into my office and, as is her custom, climbed into my lap in the most awkward way imaginable—her hands in my hair, her elbow in my eye, her feet entangled in the computer power cord, almost knocking the laptop and my coffee to the ground.
Then, settled, she sat in my lap, her huge five year old self blocking any chance I might have at the keyboard.
She held my face between her hands and lifted her (stinky) feet to my shoulders. [She’s quite flexible.]
We sat this way for thirty seconds.
Did I mention Eve’s an extrovert and her love language is touch?
Did I mention I’m an introvert and fundamentally bothered by invasion of my space?
In an act of motherly love (and extrication), I kissed Eve’s forehead, told her I loved her, and lifted her off my lap and onto the floor.
I said, “Go play.”
She said, “But I want to be with you.”
I said, “You are with me.”
She said, “No, I want to be WITH you. I want to FEEL you.”
"God With Us"—it must have meant something much different to the apostles and to Mary and to Lazarus. For them, Jesus Emmanuel meant a conversation over figs watching the sun set behind Jerusalem. It meant washing one another’s feet and rubbing shoulders in a crowd.
I forget sometimes that people actually held Jesus’ hands. I forget they helped Him into a boat. I forget they carried His cross and rubbed His skin with spices.
"God with us" looks different today.
Often I find myself trying to climb into a lap I can’t reach.
Because I want to be WITH God. I want to FEEL Him.
Before Jesus died He talked to His apostles, trying to prepare them for His absence. He said:
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bein you.”
I find it interesting that when Jesus leaves, He doesn’t say, “remember that I was with you and that’ll be enough.” He doesn’t say, “Even though I’ll be in Heaven, I’ll still be with you but in a different way.” No, He offers two points of hope: 1. He says He’s coming back. And 2. He says He’ll ask the Father for another advocate (an advocate like Himself), the Spirit.
For us, Christians living post-incarnation, “God with us” is the Spirit.
And it’s not just sitting beside us on the couch in the body of a single man who comes and goes. The Spirit is inside us, permanently, perseveringly present.
Do you want to be WITH God? Do you want to FEEL God? Consider the gift of the Spirit…
I don’t know every way the Spirit of God works. I know the Spirit works through the Word. I know the Spirit works in prayer. I know the Spirit tills the soil of my heart, fertilizing virtues until they bloom into fruit.
I know when I feel alone I can crawl into bed with the Living Word and feel held.
And I suspect there’s more…
For me though, the Spirit most powerfully presents Himself in the lives of the saints. When I need God, when I need to FEEL God, I seek out His people, people full to spilling of Spirit.
I sit in their living rooms or beside them in a truck or across a table at Chick-fil-a and I experience the very presence of God.
I look into God’s eyes—blue, brown, and hazel. I see God’s smile—sometimes crooked, sometimes straight, so often beaming. I touch God’s hands—giant, wrinkled and tan or small and ivory with glitter-painted finger nails.
Sometimes I take walks with God. Sometimes I laugh with God. And occasionally I climb up into His lap and let Him stroke my hair.
Because sometimes it’s not enough to know God’s close.
Sometimes we need to FEEL Him.