Perceiving Distance

Thanks to the blessing of our big and long-awaited vacation to Japan, it’s been a few weeks sincemy husband and I have been to church. Consequently, I’ve been feeling a bit “far from God” lately. I put that in quotation marks for a reason. Why? Because no matter how far I walk from God, he never actually lets me walk very far. No matter how much I fail to properly honor our relationship, he remains steadfast. The distance is purely my perception.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spiritdepositphotos_2144887-Brick-wall dwells in you?” This is what I have to remind myself when he feels distant: if the Holy Spirit dwells within me, how can he be far from me?

Simple answer is that he cannot be. Instead, my lack of commitment to our relationship has allowed emotional walls to rise up in my heart, just like the distance that grows between two close friends when one of them stops responding to the other’s emails. We become strangers not because of the time apart, but because of the emotional distance our unresponsiveness to his call creates.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me,” writes the Psalmist in Psalm 139:7-10. This is both comforting and terrifying to me. It is comforting for the obvious reasons, but it is terrifying for two reasons: 1) We are NEVER alone. Absolutely nothing we do is hidden from him. Not only does he know all our thoughts and deeds, but he is present for them, too. None of our sins are free from his judgement. 2) He is never giving up on you and never letting you go. No matter how far you run from him, he will follow. He has chosen you and you are his. In the words of the childhood picture book The Runaway Bunny, “‘If you run away,’ said his mother, ‘I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.'” You cannot escape his love, no matter how hard you try. Which means that we don’t get to blame him for any distance we feel.

God does not run from those that love him. On the contrary, he does the opposite. He chases after us, longing to bring us back into community with him. No matter how long we have been away from church, no matter how long since we have prayed, no matter how long since we have read the Bible, he is calling to us. It is our responsibility to lower our walls enough to hear him. Behold, he stands at the door and knocks. If anyone hears his voice and opens the door, he will come in and eat with him (Revelation 3:20).

He is waiting for me on the other side of my wall. So now I begin the task of reopening that door, softening my heart through my own devotion so that I can hear his voice again. After all, he never stopped calling to me, never stopped desiring me. I just need to open the door again.