The recently published results of Baylor University's study of Americans' views of God have caused some people to ask themselves what their own concept of God is, particularly if they don't resonate with any of the categories given in the survey results.
Looking from a different angle at the issue of God in our lives, I've found myself asking, What does the presence of God feel like?
My experience of this divine presence is directly related to my understanding that God is Love. Referring to the passage toward the very end of that book of God's Word, the Bible, Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote: " 'God is Love.' More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 6). She also said, "He that touches the hem of Christ's robe and masters his mortal beliefs, animality, and hate, rejoices in the proof of healing, – in a sweet and certain sense that God is Love" (p. 569).
Love, then, is essential to an understanding of God. The Bible tells us so, and practical experience confirms it. Love therefore is the starting point for me when I'm contemplating what God is. And anything that does not coincide with Love doesn't get space in my thinking.
Love fueled my spiritual growth for many years. True, it took me a long time to get comfortable with the concept of universal, ever- present, omnipotent Love. I had to resist my former concept of God as a judge or punisher, and get used to the idea of Love. I had to make it part of my being. Eventually it became something I could rely on, something that I could turn to whenever blackness threatened. It became less theoretical, more solid. Now, it is Truth to me.
I then began to build on this foundation. Brick upon brick, my spiritual storehouse of ideas and inspiration is built on the foundation of God as Love. Ideas such as God as Mind, as Truth, as Life, solidified for me as well, all with the inherent fact that God is Love. There is no Life without Love, there is no Truth without Love. These ideas continue to inspire me.
Gradually, too, I began to conceive of the possibility that existence itself is only within spiritual reality. Existence came to be characterized for me with ideas such as harmony, peace, wisdom, and grace. Anything outside that reality began to seem false, hollow, unreal. I could see through the unreal and accept only harmony.
There was a time when feeling the presence of God was a startling moment of inspiration for me. Love would overpower my senses, and I'd see, briefly, from a new perspective. The more this happened, the less I was satisfied with anything else. So I strove to cultivate that inspiration, monthly, weekly, daily.
Now I can say that the presence of God for me is steady, strong, peaceful. It's an awareness that all is right, that harmony is Truth, that Spirit is real. This feeling doesn't ebb and flow – it is with me more often than not. When I lose sight of it, I'm instantly aware that something needs adjustment, and I know what steps to take to reorient myself toward it.
God is present. His presence never changes – it is our understanding of it that grows.
Whither shall I go
from thy spirit?
or whither shall I flee
from thy presence?
If I take the wings
of the morning, and dwell
in the uttermost parts
of the sea;
shall thy hand lead me,
and thy right hand
shall hold me.
Psalms 119: 7, 9, 10