Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster

Nearness: There is a deep longing to be near to God, but sometimes it feels like a distant dream, as if the gulf between ourselves and the divine is unattainable, far-fetched, almost laughable. It’s not just our propensity to be distracted. Sometimes our perceived distance from God comes even when we are authentically seeking God in prayer. Sometimes our body, mind, and spirit feel disengaged, like a misaligned, slipping bike chain. You’re pedaling, but not going anywhere.

This nearness to God is an enduring theme of the Psalms. I want to say with confidence, “You are near, O Lord” (Psalm 119:151) and “The Lord is near to all who call” (Psalm 145:18), but sometimes it seems more complicated than that. Like the Psalmists, I long for God to “draw near to me, redeem me, set me free,” (Psalm 69:18). Like the Psalmists, I say, “for me, it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord my refuge” (Psalm 73:28). Like the Psalmists, I instinctively know, “the Lord is near the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18).

I am grateful for the mystics, theologians, psalmists, and poets across history who have also gone through seasons when it feels as if God is distant. We live in trust, knowing that God is perpetually near, yet it is a kind of reckless hope that we might feel that nearness in our bodies, across our whole selves. For me at least, the practice of prayer—silent meditative prayer, written prayer, spoken prayer, prayer alone, prayer in community—that helps me trust in and approach again the God who is ever-near.

Praying the Alphabet
God of Nativity,
made known in Nazareth,
you nurture and nourish
nudge, notice, and draw near.
Do not abandon us to nothingness,
but set your narrative in our midst,
so that we might live nearer to you.
In nature, with our neighbors,
through non-violence,
across the wide network of love,
set a new spirit among us.