I’m back in the Bay after spending the week of Thanksgiving on vacation in Paris and Barcelona (hence the break in emails). It was the first real vacation I’ve taken in over a year and I gotta say vacations are great. Take as many as you can.
During our time in Europe, Nidhi and I visited two churches: Sacré-Cœur in France and Sagrada Familia in Spain. Both structures are magnificent!
To start, Sacré-Cœur is perched on the highest point in Paris. I gasped when I caught my first glimpse of its massive domed roof as we climbed the stairs leading to the church, and then I gasped again when we reached the summit and saw the city sprawling below. Inside, the biggest Jesus I’ve ever seen stretched his arms across the entire dome.
La Sagrada Familia, meanwhile, soars nearly 600 feet into the air and isn’t even complete yet – construction began over 100 years ago and will continue for the next several years.
While I found the exterior to be both ugly and unsettling (I know that’s sacrilegious but c’mon people it looks like a melting candle), the inside was splendid. Light from the massive stained glass windows flooded the space with an array of colors.
If there’s one thing these churches accomplish, it’s instilling awe.
Both churches were designed to foster spiritual connection. Instead, they made God feel distant – like he’s a detached, almighty being who’s far away and unconcerned with me.
The author of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, opens with a poem about God creating the world:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
God is introduced in the first line of the Bible as some sort of mighty creator. But shortly thereafter God creates people and gives them a home, a garden:
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
And God wasn’t cold or detached with the people he created. Even after Adam and Eve had disobeyed him (spoiler alert), God was right there with them
“walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”
That’s the duality God: he is both creator of worlds and walker of gardens.
I have to trust that both characteristics of God are equally true because otherwise what’s the point? Why believe in a God who’s great but doesn’t care about me? Or a God who cares about me but is powerless?
That’s why I love the picture of God walking in the garden: regardless of how distant he feels, he’s still present.
Of course, even though I know God is close, it doesn’t always feel that way. I think that’s why the author of James, a letter in the New Testament, tells us to
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
When God feels distant, I need to remember that if I move towards God he’ll move towards me. It’s ok if I don’t feel close to him underneath vaulted ceilings, I just need to find another place where I can get closer.
And can do so confident that God will never withhold his presence from me. Presence is, after all, the sweetest part of a relationship.
I’ll end each newsletter with a question that’s been placed on my heart after writing. If you feel like it resonates, please reply to this email with your reflections! Over the course of the newsletter I’ll share some of the responses (anonymously) at the bottom of the next email. I hope we can share this journey together.
When has God felt especially distant or close to you?
Last email’s question:
What has Jesus done in your life?
” Ironically, I think the biggest thing Jesus has done for me in the past few years is give me new eyes to see the love he has for all kinds of people, including Kanye!”