Some thoughts on “Living in the Presence”

presenceAs I mentioned on the ABOUT page, I’m a book lover. For me there is NOTHING like a good read. I’d like to share with you a couple of my thoughts on a book I read back in 2007 when I was doing graduate work at Wake Forest. This post contains a piece of what I wrote back then:

I like the way Tilden Edwards takes hard subject matter and makes it seem almost as natural and easy as breathing.  In his book, Living in the Presence, he encourages us to remember that “each of us is an adventure of God’s Spirit.” What powerful and liberating words. What a refreshing thought.

For much of my life I have anguished over my vocation and my spiritual growth. What exactly am I suppose to be? Am I moving down the road quickly enough to make it there? Who can help and mentor me? Will my irredeemable faults like procrastination and lack of discipline finally prevent me from fulfilling whatever is my destiny? Why the hell does everyone else seem to be doing fine?!

Sometimes I have felt that indeed my own probing, contemplative mind has been the very key to my misery. I have sometimes wished rather to be one who is clueless, alien to the angst of ever-questioning, and ever searching.! What bliss there must be in the simplicity of not knowing that there are spiritual depths to be plumbed and spiritual mountains to climb. In this regard, the words of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz in her Response to Sor Filotea deeply resonate with me: Although it has not worked in my favor, God has granted me the favor of loving truth above all else” (Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, in Poems, Protest, and a Dream, Introduction, xxvi).

And yet, here are Edwards’ words like fresh water for a weary traveler. I am one who has felt what he refers to as “a fever of our undernourished, deepest nature (9) and have tried to cure that fever through greater sensuality. I have sought gratification through educational and financial pursuits. I have tired to quell the deep aching, the longing, the incessant gnawing in the void…But Edwards’ words have a strange, settling effect even as I quiver in anticipation of more; will I be satisfied?

Will I be one who recognized that “contemplation is not an experience to be gained, but an eternal identity to be realized” (5)? If I faithfully put into practice the spiritual exercises he suggests, will I cease my attempt to “possess this way of being” in favor of “relinquishing [my]self into participation in it” (5)?

Edwards’ words open for us a plethora of possibilities. For instance, saying that we are an adventure of God’s spirit suggests that God may have already (happily) planned for more than one outcome! And adventure is like a pleasant experiment; pleasant because there are various anticipations not only about the end result, but about the experiment itself. Of course there are precautionary measures taken in advance to deal with those possibilities. there is precious little dread or trepidation in an adventure, but utter joy and delight in the promise of new discoveries. Is it possible that God could be like this? I for one like to imagine God this way!

Tilden Edwards’ book offers us much to think on and new ways to imagine God. It helps take the pressure off to accomplish something or get somewhere and enables us to slow down and enjoy the journey.

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