One of the pastors in my church is a wonderful piano player. It’s a joy to listen to him. In the course of one of his sermons, he recently mentioned that although he gains great joy from playing the piano, he appreciates far more the times when he joins with a congregation of people singing praise to God. That’s when the Holy Spirit is evident in his life.
This comment caused me to ponder upon the times when I feel closest to God. I too love to praise God amongst a choir of earthly voices singing praises in church. At times it seems that other, heavenly voices join the chorus, and for a while the divide between the two realms is almost breached. The same applies for a time when I am praying with others. I sometimes have the experience of almost entering another dimension closer to Jesus and it’s like returning down a tunnel to open one’s eyes and reenter the physical world.
Yet the times when I feel closest to God are, for me, not found in church or in the company of other like-minded Christians, lovely as these times are.
In my work in health I meet an assortment of people from various walks of life. Sometimes I work with the most vulnerable of folk – people who have had a tough life in various ways. Some have chronic illnesses. Some are disabled. Some have mental health issues, or addictions. Some live in poverty or struggle with managing their physical environments. Sometimes they live with carers, who may have been caring for their loved ones for decades.
It is truly an honour to know such people. They epitomise what the beatitudes are all about. Where the world turns its face away, God’s presence is very real. Jesus in His earthly ministry cared for the sick, disabled, abused and unwanted, the poor and despised. When I commit my day and each person that I visit to Him, His presence touches them. I know that when I literally wash feet, or speak an encouraging word or give a gentle touch on the arm, the only touch which that person may receive all day, God’s love is there. He answers and meets needs. That is when I feel God’s presence, when I simply become a conduit for his love to flow to those who need it. It’s by no means a one-sided exchange. The people I encounter bless and encourage me so much. To God be the glory.
The other most frequent time when I feel close to God, when He delights me and recharges my batteries, is when I am close to nature. I love being in my garden, with my dogs and cats and wild creatures and plants; or visiting some of the scenic places that we are blessed with. It's truly recreational (re-creational) to walk on the beach or enjoy a hike in a forest with my loved ones, as I did at the Bunya Mountains recently. We have both a glimpse of what was lost at Eden and a tiny foretaste of the unimaginable beauty of heaven to come.
It’s so wonderful to have time to relax and contemplate not only the beauty of a seashore or forest or desert or night sky; but even more so the beauty and inestimable kindness of the One who created all these things to reflect His glory and to delight us. May we never forget that the One who created the wonders of nature and the universe, the King of all kings, made Himself human and poor and lonely and abused, in order to obey and glorify His Father God and to give His life for our salvation.