Jump directly to the Content

Looking for God

Last week in my advanced grammar class, I explained to my students that to be isn't always a linking verb. We looked at a pair of sentences: I think. Therefore, I am.

"They're grammatically identical," I said. "Subject + verb. I am simply means I exist."

Days later, I'm in church waiting for a renovations discussion to morph into the worship service proper. It's a new church for my family. We sit in our pew, my husband, Kris, pretending interest in the building plans, our daughter Lulu folding a church bulletin into a paper airplane I fear she'll sail any second over the people in front of us. Our other daughter, Charlotte, studiously copies into her journal scriptural names for God from an enormous banner covering the front wall.
I follow her gaze upward. Alpha and Omega. The True Vine. Prince of Peace. The Lamb of God. The names compete for attention in color and size and font, some written aslant, some straight up, some vining between other names, still others glittering with sequins. Names in greens and blues all but disappear into the green background. As a woman chatters about the church's unwelcoming entryway, I squint to decipher a clump of turquoise letters. Suddenly, from behind them, in black capital letters larger than any others on the banner, the sentence from my grammar class leaps out of the jumble of words, as if shouted into the congregation: I AM!

I Exist! I hear—or translate—in my head. All at once it's no longer just another name for God—not merely the Great I Am—but an emphatic statement booming forth from the invisible sky beyond banner and wall. I AM! God thunders, or so it seems in that moment. I AM! Here! Now! I Exist, You Dummies!

I've always struggled with God's invisibility. Why doesn't he manifest himself more directly? He could've chosen to be visible, hearable, touchable, tangibly present. Why didn't he?

Some part of me argues that he did. Early biblical accounts routinely present God as a physical reality. He brought the animals to Adam and stood by to find out what he'd name them. God walked in the garden in the cool of the day. He performed surgery on Adam to produce Eve. God spoke sternly with his creatures after the Fall. Seeing their laughable attempts to cover themselves, he dressed them, as a child might a doll.

In my reading of Genesis, God clearly walked and talked and existed like any human—at least for certain people like Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Hagar. Why has he gone invisible since those days, as many assert? They speak of Moses' being unable to see God's face, of God's being all spirit. Biblical scholars have explained to me that God never really did directly interact with people, even in the earliest times, and that scriptural language that suggests otherwise is merely metaphoric. Being made in his image isn't about the physical body, they say; it's about the spirit. But, although I persist in not seeing God, not hearing him how I hear humans, nevertheless I find their explanation hard to believe.

Maybe, part of me argues, God's always physically present—talking to us, walking with us, ready to seize us up in his arms at every moment. Maybe he's not invisible at all, but we just have our eyes closed. Maybe we're still hiding from him, as Adam and Eve did, and thus we're unable to see him. Perhaps we're like small children playing peek-a-boo, naively seeking to hide ourselves by covering our own eyes and, as a result, making ourselves blind.

It seemed so, in any case, in that moment at church. As though God were saying, Hey, I exist. I'm here. Right in front of you. Open your eyes!

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters