A couple of months ago, I started taking my lunch breaks down at the water of San Francisco Bay. When the clock strikes 12, I whistle for Rufus.
My golden doodle, who prefers a room full of adoring humans to a backyard of hounds, scurries over to me, his hind quarters wiggling from side to side. He looks up, tight tawny curls nearly covering his large, chestnut eyes. The pup knows what’s coming.
We hop in the car and drive up 66th to the stoplight at International. Rufus rests his furry head on rattling floorboards. I stare at the homeless encampment, the thick stack of apartment buildings, and the piles of trash next to the railroad tracks. By the time we get to the nature preserve, Rufus’s window is fogged over with his pants of blissful anticipation.
We walk, he sniffs. We pause at the fountain, the one with spouts for both humans and dogs. Our mouths fill with water; we gulp down the good stuff of the earth.
It’s usually around this time that I begin to wake up—not to the day itself, but to the presence of God. Maybe it’s the physical movement, or the water that runs down my throat. Perhaps it’s the bay air, tickling my nostrils, or the beauty of greenish-gray waves chopping against the marshlands.
In The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis writes, “We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words —to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” To see beauty is one thing. But to enter into the presence of God and be fully immersed in it, well, that is something else altogether. It’s an experience that can hardly be put into words.
“We want to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”
You’d think by now I’d know what’s coming on these daily walks with Rufus. But somehow, this enveloping presence of God catches me by surprise every time. It’s not until I leave the house, drive a mile down the road, and walk another half mile before I finally notice the Lord has been there all along.
But this is not how God intended for me to live—to go through my days knowing He is in every place and at all times, whether or not I sense that presence. At the water? God is there. In the homeless encampment and the railroad tracks? God is there. At home in my office, whether or not productivity pays me a visit on any given day? God is there in each and every one of the sticky, tangible places of our daily life.
How then might we find regular, practical ways to experience the presence of God?
I think of Brother Lawrence, who believed the life of faith was impossible without practicing the presence of God: “I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of the centre of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is insupportable.” Although centering our souls with the Lord is important, it feels less practical when you don’t live at a monastery.
God is there in each and every one of the sticky, tangible places of our daily life.
But seeing God in the sunrises, clouds, and darkness of morning? That’s practical. Thinking about Him while we wash the dishes (as Brother Lawrence often did) or ditching our cell phones during dinner to focus on the people around us? Equally practical.
God’s presence is not something we’re meant to opt in and out of. It’s with us always, and sometimes the concrete details of our life offer the best opportunities to be aware and commune. Whatever this looks like for each of us, no doubt our senses will be infiltrated and woken up to God again. After all, the One who has been there all along is here, waiting for us now.