I read that question this morning in a few moments of quiet time. I read it lightly, glancingly, because the answer in my mind was bold. Quick.
The first wave. A true enough answer. I know He’s present. I’m confident in that knowledge.
The second wave came just as quickly. But its force was much heavier than I expected.
“So confident,” I wrote, “it scares me.”
“So confident that I forget His nearness.”
Then, after a moment where the words I wrote became the words I felt, I understood. I know that He is present. I mean, His name is “I AM.” Present tense. Presence is knowledge. It’s the acknowledgement of other people being in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. But presence often doesn’t make eye-contact. It doesn’t strike up conversation. It puts space between you and them. It picks up a magazine, gazes blankly at the TV, and waits for its own name to be called, not theirs.
But nearness, that’s more than proximity. That’s being with someone in the waiting room, holding their hand, afraid of the bad news beyond their name called, excited for the good news beyond the sitting and the waiting and the hoping. That’s looking at them as they look at the door.
“His nearness is our good.” His presence is sure, steadfast, but His nearness must be remembered. He is among us. with us. near to us. His nearness is not merely to be acknowledged, it’s something to be experienced.
I’ve been reading through Lamentations with a group of girls for a few weeks. And we’re listening to a city sing. It’s a mourning song, about agony and affliction. But she’s not singing to old lovers who left her or enemies who destroyed her, or even to herself who she doesn’t understand. She’s singing to a God whose presence is like an enemy to her, whose presence’s dwelling place has been burnt to the ground. She’s singing to the God who let all of this pain befall her.
Why? She didn’t care about His presence when He pleaded for her to return. Even when He drew near, to gather her under His wings, she shirked Him for others whose nearness promised so much more, immediately. But their presence wasn’t steadfast. And their nearness was not her good. Their arms were empty.
And yet she sings. She gropes around in the dark and in the rubble for His hands. And even as she finds them as the cause of her affliction, she grasps them tightly and keeps on singing, “Look at me. Behold my affliction.”
She sings for His nearness. She sings for Him.
“His nearness is our good.”