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Feeling God


When I was young God was revealed through the Bible and miracles; I knew nearly all the answers to whatever Bible trivia games my school or Sabbath School ever had. Speed Bible-text searches? I crushed them. God was always watching. We went to church to feel Him more and show our respect. My dad was a pastor, so we were at church a lot. There was also a lot of Adventist pride here: we had the truth, we had deciphered all those strange prophecies, we knew what God really wanted and if we trusted in him, we could get more miracles. Oh, and we should be ready for persecution and running to the hills, but God would protect us and make up for it in heaven.

There was fear and comfort in these confident, concrete interpretations.

Time passed, I got older, and my God focus had a greater Jesus emphasis. Jesus was our friend. He cared for everyone and loved them, He wanted to talk with me every day, and He totally enjoyed praise bands.

More time passed. Y2K filled the news and people worried that with the upcoming millennium, life as we knew it would end. As it happened, mine did. In the havoc of the changes taking place in my life, good people, people of faith, people dear to me, people who had been my spiritual guides, became sources of turmoil. I think they really felt they were holding on to truth and goodness, but under the cloak of their religion lay fear, anger, hurt, and a desperate need for control. The Bible became weaponized with bullets of scripture and Ellen White falling all around and through me. I was left with a lot of fragments of experience and belief that no longer knit together the way they had before.

I didn’t have certainty and miracles. I had loss, and grief, and doubt.

So I journaled. And read. A Lot. And journaled about what I read. And talked with friends who were also reading and journaling. I am something of a compulsive quote-collector and these many volumes are probably half collected quotes and half personal musings. So far I have filled 22 volumes and counting…

Being human is amazing, and exhausting, and mysterious, and earthy, and complicated, and dirty, and so very humbling and educational. I needed a God, a faith, a way of being, that could embrace all of those things. One biased for compassion, for connection, and for nuance.

For the first several years I didn’t know that was what I was looking for. To be honest, I had no idea what I was looking for.

To quote myself about 15 years ago:

“For me, it is more than just [a pull to stay with] a familiar culture. There is almost a sense of obligation, a great need to pursue this quest, to stick with it somehow, to find a way to make it work, make it fit. And so I keep reading, keep compiling stories and new spins to add to old theories, hoping that if I just stick with it long enough, like Goldilocks, I’ll find the faith that’s ‘just right’.”

Here are three quotes I have on the next page. Quotes I would probably still jot down today. But I think when I first wrote them down it was with wonder and longing. And now they are more comfortable, more of an expression of my thoughts, too.

Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart…Try to love the contradictions themselves…Live the contradictions now. —Parker Palmer

Be aware of draining the mystery out of the scriptures in a misplaced desire for rational consistency. Hence, I have learned to live with incompleteness, paradox, incomprehensibility and deep mystery in my relationship with God and as I think theologically. —J.I. Packer

Recognizing and appreciating God as mystery — as opposed to God as defined by facts and proofs — can be an important step. God’s hiddenness and absence make sense only in the context of mystery. As I contemplate the stories of so many who have walked away from faith, it occurs to me that they have walked away not so much from God, but rather from a mistaken perception of God. —Ruth Tucker

When I feel God now, it’s sometimes the transcendent moments that I think many can relate to: those awe-inducing things like a sublime landscape, a beautiful piece of art, or stunning architecture. Music.

Of course music. I have this wonderful memory of singing a hymn with the Unionaires that Dr. Lynn had sort of dubbed our anthem. We had sung it many times, but it was always moving. By the time we made it to the last verse we were so tightly united in the emotion of the piece. Each crescendo. Each fermata. The music was playing us, coming out of our souls, uniting us in this gorgeous experience. Something so much more than just simply four parts being sung together. It was something bigger, deeper, more mysterious. Transcendent. Sacred.

This same sense of connection to something outside of myself happens in such an assortment of times/places that I don’t have a “thing” per se where I experience it. The wonder hits my heart, which then swells so that there’s less room for the air in my lungs. Sometimes it happens in a moment that feels full of importance. Other times it sneaks into the mundane and catches me completely unawares, but is no less powerful or holy. Miraculous, you might say.

An honest conversation with friends,

smelling the air on a crisp autumn morning,

snuggling with my girls,

seeing someone’s pain and reaching out to them,

holding hands with strangers to circle Green Lake in the name of acceptance and love,

marveling as a child figures out a new skill,

crocuses blooming through the snow and mud,

watching a parent and child delight in each other,

sitting next to someone I love.

I think it comes down to connection. I believe that there is a sacred connection between all of us and everything around us: the lily of the valley, the lost sheep, the neighbor we should love as ourselves, the stranger within our gate, the crying child, the heartbroken friend, the asylum-seeking immigrant, the transgender classmate, the Muslim next door.

We can practice looking out for this connection, and maybe get better at seeing it and feeling it. And then reach out and pluck it and feel God resonate with the strumming.


Karen Baker works as a pediatric physical therapist, and is constantly touched by the love and resilience of the families she works with. She continues to sing, read, and collect quotes with her husband and two daughters.

Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash


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