Stefa Chappell is the Northeast Regional Director for Chi Alpha and also leads the Georgetown Med School Chi Alpha group. She recently completed her Master's degree, and when she's not taking care of her adorable dog Finn she's probably out for a run, or helping a friend shop for the perfect outfit.
A dear friend of mine told me about a realization he had about God's presence. As he was spending time with God one day, his mind drifted to the beginning of the Bible.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1). My friend's thoughts then drifted the the very end of Holy Scripture: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen" (Rev 22:21).
My friend recognized that in the English language, the first and last words in Scripture are "in" and "amen." How appropriate, my friend thought. That's the whole point--the thread that weaves through the entirety of Scripture. God came to dwell in humankind. Amen.
This story gives insight to how my own devotional life has changed in over twenty five years of walking with Christ. My earliest years were thick with excitement as I experienced the newness of the Christian faith. God's power and reality were alive day by day, and every verse awakened me. I immersed myself in this new reality by spending countless hours reading the Word.
As I grew older in faith I embraced new ideas, some of them good. There were some things, though, that I ingested because they sounded credible coming from people I respected. One thing I picked up was the idea that God was a bit fickle in His presence.
There was a subtle belief in me that God was with me only when He was happy with me, and He was happy with me only when I was a really, really good Christian. Perhaps you are one of the really, really good Christians but I found myself to be less than really, really good.
I still got mad so easily. I was still an impatient driver. I still said things that hurt people. I was still tempted by pride, lust and greed.
And when I felt like I failed in any of those areas, there was something in me that believed I had to convince God to come back. I was not able, at that time, to see that God had not "left" me.
This errant understanding of God informed my prayer life in many ways. I spent far more time trying to pray for the things that would hopefully make God happy with me than I spent enjoying Him and then becoming like Him as I beheld Him.
Fast forward to years later in my walk with Christ. Somehow I started to see this thread in Scripture. I began to see that God promises that He will never leave us. I started to see how God remained steadfast and true, regardless of how well I felt I did in being the perfect Christian on any given day.
I became aware of the indwelling presence of God in my life--the gift that was offered through Christ.
It occurred to me one day that the sacrifice that God made for me (for us) was so massive that no small thing would cause Him to walk away. If it could, then God would be saying that even He did not think His sacrifice was that important.
God has come to dwell in His people. He lives in me--I don't have to convince Him to show up when I pray. I don't have to prove how good I have been so I can pray.
This was an earth shattering revelation for me (it actually did shake the earth at one point in Christian history). This reality changed the starting point of my prayer life.
Now, rather than trying to convince God to come be with me as I pray, I now pause and simply pay attention to His enduring presence. I "look" for God and listen to His voice, knowing that He is present.
It is in His beautiful presence where I am formed to become more like Him. In this Presence I can offer my requests to Him, and I can worship Him because I know He is there. Amen.