God is Everywhere

Virginia B. Phelan, Ph. D.
Mother and College Professor -- Princeton and Drew Universities

When I was six, I learned to spout the Baltimore Catechism's "Where is God? God is everywhere." I tried to understand 'everywhere' and ended up thinking that God was like the air, surrounding the world I knew and even filling the heavens. But I didn't have a sense of God's closeness, God's presence in my life.

I still don't have that sense all the time, since darkness sometimes pulls the shades inside. But now I know that if I wait quietly instead of stumbling and trying to 'fix' the lights, my eyes often learn to see things I might have missed in the brilliance of day. And sure enough, God is everywhere, but 'everywhere' has shrunken and other ether has become the everyday, the people, places and things that grace my life.

For example, I find God in the small kindnesses I receive from people who are unaware they're treating me kindly: the woman who holds the door for me, even if I don't have my arms full; the salesclerk who, after I decide against a purchase, thanks me for coming in--and means it; the student who e-mails me a thank-you note at the end of the semester. God is in the men in Trenton State Prison who teach me patience and the men on the snowplow who, seeing me struggle to free my mailbox, gently scoop it clear.

But I also find God in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where I love to hike at the end of each summer; in the stones of Chartres, where I feel the spirit of that holy ground; and in our backyard, where favorite trees fail while others flourish despite the odds--and the drought.

God hides in things, too. The Ladybug that, since Thanksgiving, guards our house and reappears whenever I get dispirited; the tiny bird that returns each spring to fill the red maple behind the kitchen with impossible song; the blizzard that clogs the roads and clears the calendars. All these remind me to trust in God's endless, boundless providence.

And if I can remember to look, I find God even through little annoyances that irk me. Two days ago, I was slowed by a gigantic, Darth Vader-like tractor-trailer that, despite the yellow warning light, pulled into the intersection I was waiting at. For the next three signal changes, this monster backed and crept as it made its wide turn, and as the line behind me grew hotter and hotter. but instead of feeling angry, I was chuckling by the time we moved, for I had just seen an eighteen-wheeled parable. In six-foot black letters that bristled against the yellow paneling, the truck cautioned soberly against 'PRIDE.'

So, when I keep searching, even in the dark, finding God is a never-ending treasure hunt. And I don't even have to search all by myself. I just have to start looking, because God is so eager to find me that God gives me clues. If I'm awake enough to notice, God is here -- and there -- and everywhere.

Virginia Phelan, Ph.D. is author of Praying in Your Own Voice...Through Writing, Liguori Publications (October 1994)

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