I have always found this notion comforting and challenging, perhaps because I am apt to forget it from time to time. I can fall into the trap of thinking that I can avoid or hide from God. Or think that the connection is weaker during times when I am not diligent about prayer and actively seeking God. Sometimes I imagine that if I don’t feel God’s presence, then something is wrong, or I must be doing something wrong.
But Paul asserts this truth for “each one of us,” while speaking to an audience of pagans and worshipers of idols and “an unknown God.” He tells these people that we all live and move and have our being in God, whether we know it or not.
I imagine this scene as if one fish were to preach to other fish about water. The preacher fish says, “Water is what gives life to all fish kind. Water is not far from us, for in water we live and move and have our being.” Surely some of the fish would not believe, and would dispute. “What is this water you speak of? There is the above, where there is gasping and death, and there is our world where all flows and we have life.”
Unlike the water where fish live, there is nowhere where God is absent. No one to whom God is not near, whether we, or they, feel or believe it. That’s not only heavy-duty comfort, it is also a call.
It’s a call to understand the deep connections between ourselves and each other — all others. Since we all live and move and have our being in God, then we are all also interconnected in God. For me, this explains why I am better able to love others during those times when I am paying attention to God, who connects us.
I first understood this deep connection one day many years ago during a long commute to a summer job. It was a time in my life when I was very aware of God as being closer than breath. As I rode the bus and the subway, watching all the people around me, I began to see each person as beautiful. And as I beheld them, and saw their beauty, I loved them. It was a mystical experience; I somehow got a glimpse of how God sees people.
We live and move and have our being in God. We live and love more fully when we pause to perceive this, to rejoice in it. But when we don’t, it is no less true. God is. Everywhere. Not far from each of us. Giving us life.
Liane Rozzell is the senior warden at St. Stephen and the Incarnation.