Have we done better or worse without the tangible presence of God in our lives? In various periods of world history it would seem that at the times Your absence was most loudly proclaimed Your presence was, somehow, profoundly revealed. You cannot be denied. You cannot be obliterated. You emerge constantly from the most extreme vacuums of godlessness. Your spirit is indomitable in mankind. Human beings are the vessels of Your ubiquity. The prophets of old actually spoke to You and You to them. The apostles and disciples could physically reach out and touch You. But in this age there is no tangible presence of God. In this age faith guides our relationship with You. If I was able to audibly hear Your voice or if You were physically present in bodily form I would be a puppy dog awaiting every meaningful word from Your lips and every possible twitch of body language. I would not need me because I’d have You. I would not need to struggle to master the interior intellectual gymnastics contrived to get me closer to the one “out there.” All the praying, reading, writing, centering, etc. would be dropped.
Now, the question is: in which way do we do better? There is truth in the words “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” If You were physically right here with me now, I can see myself treating You as I treat those closest to me – those I love the most – and that is not always so great. That is defective. That leaves much to be desired. I think I might be more prone to despair over my inadequacy and my shortcomings if You were tangibly present now because I know what happens with those I love most. I would fear how I’d fail You. It’s not that I don’t fear that anyway, but with You actually before me I could not bear how I might treat You. Yet, without You here I treat You the same way. The difference is that only with Your invisibility is there hope that Your love for me is so far above what I do to You that I am able to bear what might otherwise be the visible effects of Your disapproval. And yet, maybe You look upon me and see how I treat other people – people who are the vessels of Your presence in this life – and shake Your head thinking, ‘see how he treats me?’ That indictment is bad enough; I don’t think I could bear to see the look on Your face.