“But the Most High called out, ‘Where are you?'”Genesis 3:9
Every now and again I meet atheists who proclaim that there is no God. I do not worry about these people because I know that God is constantly pursuing them, whether they know it or not. Granted, I think it is more difficult for God to connect with people these days, but nothing is impossible for God.
To connect with God we need to be able to experience awe and wonder somewhere in our life. The world today keeps us busy with various activities and technologies and often apart from creation, and the opportunity to experience awe and wonder are limited. Some people live where nature finds it most difficult to break through. Nevertheless, God can break through even in today’s crazy world.
For example, God is breaking through in science as scientists go deeper into the tiniest aspects of creation and at the same time go farther out into the vastness of the universe, and scientists are being struck with awe and wonder.
Awe and wonder are those experiences that we find impossible to put words on no matter how hard we try. Artists come close to expressing the truth of these experiences, and yet fail because the experiences I am talking about are unutterable and ineffable. No piling up of words or human expression can get you to the experience itself.
Experiences of awe and wonder are the beginning of faith. It is the kind of knowing that says there is something beyond human understanding. The way to faith is beyond our human control and it is a way of awareness. This is why we can say that faith is a gift.
It turns out that God is willing to be approached, willing to be known, willing to be found, and is in fact the one who goes first, seeking us. Our faith is but a response to God who comes searching for us. Faith is not birthed by creeds, concepts, doctrines, catechisms, or statements. Faith is an experience that happens interiorly. Concepts and creeds merely put into words our human attempts to understand and express our experience.
God is calling out, “Where are you?” and continues to call and continues to search for us, presenting us with experiences of awe and wonder. However, if we never stand still, if we keep our minds occupied with endless details, our heads down, hiding from God, we will miss out on the gift of faith. God will have to catch us unawares. That happens.
We need to lift our eyes on high and see, and find ourselves asking — who is responsible for these experiences of awe and wonder? and find ourselves praising God even before we have the name of God in mind. Faith is a response to mystery. Faith is our response to God searching for us.
This response of faith is in the essence of what it means to be human. We have this urge to rise above words and go beyond to the meaning of things and experiences. Faith does not begin with creeds, catechisms, and doctrines. Faith begins with our encounter with God, not with words about God. We turn to words in an attempt to capture and keep the experience of that encounter.
So, don’t worry about your atheist friends. Turn them over to God who loves them and is reaching out to them. Be more concerned for those who think they have faith, but only have words — creeds, doctrines, and concepts — and do not know God. Memorizing scripture, catechisms, doctrines — believing statements of faith — is not faith. Faith is the experience of our relationship with God who has found us. It is a relationship of love.
So, my beloved ones in Christ, rejoice that you have been found by God. Rejoice in the gift of faith.