I attended a prayer today while visiting a partner anti-human trafficking organization. Every day at 11am, everyone in this organization stops their work, walks to a room, sits down in chairs, listens to others ask for prayers and everyone prays for them.
They were kind enough to let me and two of my colleagues join them after a joint planning meeting. There were structural pieces which were different from my experience of faith–sitting in office chairs, the prayer leader using a whiteboard to summarize the prayer needs of those who asked, florescent lights of the office conference room. But there was a deeper difference that I’ve been struggling to articulate since I spent half a day watching the livestream of Passion 2013, a conference for 60,000 evangelical youths which focuses on end human trafficking.
I grew up thinking of God as the ground. Like when Joss Whedon describes equality as like gravity–“we need it to stand on this earth as men and women”–that is how I think of God.
Present, necessary to exist and stand and walk, made up of the same stuffs inside me. But not between me and others. I move over the earth under my own power, held to it and away from the sucking emptiness of space by its weight, but the ground doesn’t tell me where to talk. I was made; I choose where I walk; if I connect I am moving because of my relationship to God but the connection itself is my responsibility.
The people at Passion and the organization I visited today seem to think of God as air: it conveys all things, sits between all things, and without it no spark could jump synapses. Just as we breath constantly, if God is air we must praise constantly. If God is the ground, it is enough to know God is there and we are here and we are connected to each other and to God.
If God is air then an hour of distance is fatal. There’s a constant, tactile connection in the kinds of prayers and praises I heard today and overheard on Passion’s social media streams; the same connection you and I have with the air we breath.
It’s not that God is the ground or air or even in the rain. The running theory is that God is everywhere.
But the concept of God is too big to live fully outside of a metaphor, though still too big to be fully contained within one. What metaphors we choose for God determine how we interact, how we express that relationship, how we act in God’s presence.
And how we live in others’.
“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”–Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. (interesting sourcing on the quote)