I was reading an essay written by someone who I had never heard of before this morning.  It was interesting as they were describing an event where tons and tons of people were gathering.  Depending upon the type of event, they recalled how they viewed the people differently when in close proximity to others.  The author, Shelly Miller did a great job of recognising and admitting how easy we colour others in our own minds depending on the situation.  It’s a good read for all of us.  During this observation and reflection, the author used this phrase to describe 6,000+ people coming together for a Christian leadership conference…

“God’s presence was palpable.”

Now, I have had this experience before.  There seems to be an almost electric feeling when you get a bunch of people together for certain events.  When I have attended the Urbana Missions Conference in the past, even the concept of having 20,000+ people that follow God coming together gives me goose bumps.  The actual experience is ever so much more powerful.  In such an environment, it is easy to say what Mrs. Miller wrote.  It is a visceral connection with the presence of an invisible God.

I enjoyed her writing and reflected upon the lessons there, but I was left with a question that had nothing to do with her piece at all.  Why is it that aside from those “big” experiences do we tend not to express a meeting with God in the same way?  Is it that without the throng of people,  we cannot sense God’s presence in a tangible way?  Is it that the meeting is actually different when we spend time alone in prayer or with a bible study group?  Are we more aware of God when many people are gathered together?  Or more subtly, is it that we don’t expect a “palpable” experience with God unless we’re essentially drowning in one?

I’m not saying that no one has ever described a more solitary experience with God as palpable.  However, I think it does show how we are wired to assume that a great cacophony represents more of a “God-experience” than a subtle or silent one.  Yet, in the Bible the one reference to an experience with God that I have always adhered to is in 1 Kings 19.

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”  —- 1 Kings 19:11-13

In the midst of craziness, God wasn’t found in the loud noises or the thunderous happenstance… He was found in the subtlety of a whisper.

Too often today, we as Christians feel like we need the mountaintop experience to remind us that God is real.  That is our fallen and self-indulgent state of heart

So, I am left with hard questions.  Do we only have significant connections with God in the wake of emotional or sensory overload?  Why is it that we aren’t overwhelmed with God’s presence like so many instances in the Bible when a personal connection is made between God and a person?  What is wrong with our hearts that we interpret reality in a way that keeps us from being in awe of having a relationship with Him?  I personally feel convicted about the ways that I do not acknowledge that Christ is in our everyday reality.  I also recognise that I need to strive to be in awe of His presence at all times.  That God would choose to involve Himself in my life needs to be that dramatic to my soul.  Imagine if we lived our lives in that way… that God’s presence was palpable every second of every day.  Oh how things would be different.