One spring evening some 15 years ago, my wife, Irene, and I attended a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah sung by the Shenandoah Valley Choral Society. The next day I traveled to Richmond, Va., for open-heart surgery. Through the musical depiction of the trials of the prophet, God spoke peace to me.
How rare are such theophanies—occasions when God has spoken clearly and directly to me. From my 86 years I recall only an evening prayer-group session when I was a teenager, communion from elements on the hood of a chaplain’s Jeep before our first battle in Tunisia during World War II, my wedding day, the births of my two sons.
Do we deserve God’s presence, we who cry with Thomas, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands ... and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25)? Perhaps this Lent we could strive to open ourselves to more of these moments.
I admire those who feel certain that God is always present in their lives. And I am glad for them. But I’m thinking about others who share my frequent loneliness for God, hoping that we can be honest about the situation and learn to do more than whistle in the dark. As in all spiritual advances, it won’t be easy. People who advocate the life of meditation speak about work—the difficulty of sweating out even a hint of presence.
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