by Nicole Unice
God disappeared last week. After months of new transitions, at last I had opportunities to do what I thought God wanted. And in the busyness, I paused long enough to take stock—and he was gone.
Of course, my mind retorted, God is not missing. God is the Great I AM; he is always personal, always present. One morning – far from home at a conference in Colorado - I stood and gazed at the Rocky Mountains on the horizon. They were about twenty miles away, but visible from every vantage point. But the reality of the mountain—the feeling of a climb beneath my feet, an opportunity to summit and take in the view, even one tree or blade of grass—was so distant, I couldn’t see it or feel it. Like the mountain, God was present, but felt distant.
As leaders in ministry, the feeling of God’s distance can be so unnerving – Bible studies go on, groups must be led, people need to be encouraged – and we wonder if we should even be doing ministry. So in that silence last week I grabbed my Bible and flopped under a tree. I flipped open to the gospels to ask: “What if I was an average girl, living in first century Judea? What would Jesus tell me to do when God feels far and I feel alone?”
I scanned the first two chapters in Matthew while plucking grass…hmm, baby Jesus won’t do. Average Judean girl wouldn’t know about his birth. Chapters three and four-- I couldn’t help think about how I would teach about Jesus’ temptation, rather than what is there for me. My eyes scanned and stuck on Matthew 4:17: “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”
Repent. I rolled over to stare at the sky and wonder. Who am I, really? Am I the composite of what others see – busy, bright, “gifted?” Am I the me I know—prideful, petulant, selfish? The truth probably lies in the middle, I thought, but either way, just one sentence from the mouth of Jesus reminded me how desperately I need God – Father, Lover, Healer, Savior.
I read on, into Matthew five and six, and I am that Judean girl on the mountainside, watching this wild and wonderful man tell me how to find God. I began to think about the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness. I realize that God feels far when I feel strong, because I don’t meet any of that criteria. And I begin to realize that to find God, I need to be where he hangs out. He’s with the downcast and the low. He’s present to the pure of heart.
As the sunlight flickered through the trees, I sensed his whisper again. I’ve been God’s fair-weather friend, available when I have time and it’s convenient. But that isn’t God. And he doesn’t wait on me. I wait on him. I hear him again in the pages of his Word and I feel peace. Perhaps I needed him to be distant, so that I am reminded how much I need him. Perhaps he “hid” so I could seek.
Nicole Unice is a counselor, women's ministry director and writer living in Richmond, VA.