It was pretty weird today when I drove past the grounds of the Steele County Free Fair. Partially disassembled rides were lined up on the site of the midway, there were still random booths that were up, waiting to be disassembled, and a whole set of semi-trucks were parked along 18th, waiting to depart for their next destination.
After spending large chunks of last week wandering the fairgrounds, seeing people, looking at exhibits and eating deep-fried food, it’s always a little startling to see the fairgrounds set back to the way it is the other 51 weeks of the year.
Like a balloon after all of its air has escaped, there is something just a bit depressing about the aftermath of the fair. I heard a young person at church on Sunday bemoaning the fact that “we’ll have to wait a whole ‘nother year until the fair!” (followed by a giant sigh.)
From time to time in my life, I’ve had a tendency to approach my faith in this same way. I’ve had these moments: Bible camp, youth gatherings, conferences and other events that have been powerful catalysts for my faith. Perhaps you’ve experienced these same things. When I was a kid, my own experience of God’s love and grace and community at our Bible camp was so powerful that I had just about convinced myself that “God must live at camp.” I can remember being almost disappointed when I got home, and had to live in the aftermath of that powerful event.
Well, in one sense I was right. God did live at camp. God lives in those powerful, faith-lifting moments and experiences that have the power to change and transform us. At these times, God’s presence is so palpable…it’s like we can reach out and touch God…or perhaps more accurately, we can feel God reach out and touch us.
But here’s the thing: God is equally present in those other moments. God is present in the mundane and the routine. God is present in our daily commute and in our time in our classrooms or in our cubicles. God is present even when God can feel distant, and when we can barely remember the last time we felt God’s presence.
There is no aftermath to the presence of God because quite simply, God’s presence doesn’t end.
Romans 8 puts it this way: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The distance we feel from God is a distance that we create. And I’d even venture that it isn’t really a distance. It’s a sense of God’s presence. It’s our ability to connect to the God who promises to be present.
The aftermath of the presence of God? It is more presence of God. So when we seek God, when we pray for God’s presence, it’s not because God has gone missing. Rather we are praying for open eyes to see God’s presence. Because God is right here.