In a recent discussion with a coworker, I shared that I was taking online seminary classes and had just started a new course. We had been discussing his new graduate level business program, lamenting on the time and work involved. I think how great it is to have that phase of life behind me, and make the same statement I’ve made the last 9 years: “I’m done with graduate studies, I’ve studied for and passed all of the right exams. No more school for me!”
But as I said those words, I realized it was no longer true. Somehow, outside of the plan I made for myself, I AM taking classes again! And since the classes are matters of faith and not business or accounting, I’m actually really excited about them! I think this is why I decided to shared the information with my coworker.
Yet when pressed about what this course covered, what the assigned reading was about, what the online discussions were like, I stammered for a response. I had trouble remembering and expressing in any logical way the words I had read and reflected upon just that morning. If the same questions had been posed outside of the office, I think they could have led to a lengthy, faith-focused discussion. But in that moment, the questions in a conference room felt out of place – like worlds colliding. After the fact, it felt like a missed opportunity.
I’ve been helping every few weeks serve the evening meal at a homeless shelter near my office. The labor is easy, and it has been a good to be with people who live such different lives than I do: pouring coffee, looking other humans in the eye and engaging in conversation.
I served one night early this week. At one point, I stood to the side of the room and listened to two young men talking. They were both helping with dishes, but both were also residents at the shelter. One man said he had slept in that corner the night before, pointing to one side of the room. The other man said that same spot is where he had spent his first night in this shelter – and was the spot where he had prayed to God for the first time since he was 10-years-old. The first man shared how he has felt reconnected with God since his arrival here. He said that every time he walks into this building he could feel the presence of God. They continued to discuss the ways they have felt God at work as they fight to recover their normal lives.
My skin prickled – as if the Spirit had moved through the room and swirled around me at that exact moment. God is most definitely present in that place – and we could feel it! But I know God is present everywhere – even in my office. Lately I have not stopped to seek that presence. Too focused on the immense quantity of work which awaits me each day, I have failed to allow the Spirit swirl around my thoughts, my conversations, and my focus. This is being human. Yet I think it is this failure which made that quick switch from the anticipated discussion about accounting to the unplanned questions about faith more difficult than it should be.
I must seek God in all I do – even at work. Sometimes it just takes a moment’s silence – a minute of pause to silence my mind and hear God. God’s voice is always there, but I forget to listen. Two men in the grips of homelessness know God’s presence. I continue to seek God’s presence.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13