formation friday: missing God

God I miss you

my soul is dry and thirsts for you, true God, as a deer thirsts for water.” – psalm 42:1, the voice

one of the things i hear a lot when i am talking to my friends who have shifted in their faith is how much we miss God/Jesus sometimes. it’s an interesting mix. some people miss church and some people have never looked back. some are fine with a distance from God and need some space to get their heads and heart a little more together after a lot of church-craziness, while others feel the deep loneliness that sometimes comes along with changes in how we do our relationship with God.  what used to work doesn’t.

and so for some of us, there’s this weird feeling of “missing God.”

we long to feel some of the connection that used to come more freely. we need some inspiration that fuels our empty tanks. we’re lonely. we need to feel extra peace and hope and joy in a deep place in our heart that comes from that wild & mysterious whisper called God. we’re tired of spending energy on all kinds of distractions and just want to feel God again.

in our bones.

in our heart.

in our souls.

this formation friday i have no easy answers for that. sorry. so many of my old tricks don’t work, either, and gone are the days when i could quickly conjure up some kind of discipline that would help me get the big fat shot in the arm i needed.

i get to experience God in all kinds of crazy wild ways each week at the refuge; so many little reminders of God-at-work-through-people. and while i am thankful for that, i was thinking this week how despite seeing God in all kinds of ways, i miss him for myself all the time. i’m so busy sometimes focusing on what’s “out there” for other people and for my family that i neglect the thing that’s deep inside my heart that i need to keep going–my longing for God just for me.

so the other morning as i ran out of the house in my pajamas and flip flops in the freezing cold to pick up a gallon of milk at the local gas station because my children had empty bowls of dry cereal desperately waiting for me, this thought flashed across my brain:  “i really miss God today.”

and then this was my next thought, no kidding.  “and damn, i don’t want to miss God.  i like being fine without him.”

here’s why:  i hate being vulnerable.  as much as i know it’s holy and the key to so much transformation, i sometimes really don’t like the reality of needing anyone, including God.

my default is to get by on my own.

and as much as i am so grateful for the shifts in my faith because they have led me to such a free-er place in my life and relationship with God, i do miss some of what used to come so easily in my former days–that inspiration that was so tangible, so real, so sustaining, so accessible.

as i came home and fed my starving children i began thinking about what i would do in a friendship that changes, where disconnection happens, where life takes us over, or where crazy stuff happens that makes us not be able to connect like we used to.  the way out in good friendships starts with these four simple words:  “i really miss you.”

then the next thing that i would do with my friends is “let’s figure out how to get together; it’s just too hard to go another week without seeing each other.”  and then in certain relationships, it depends which, i sometimes have to live with that initial awkwardness where we try to reconnect & catch up after an absence.

often, it’s far easier to do that with a flesh-and-blood friend than it is with God but i think it’s a starting place.

God, i really miss you. what’s a way we can get together? i’m prepared to feel awkward at first.

[quote]is it a hike, writing in my journal, painting a picture, writing a poem, sitting in the silence, reading a psalm, pouring out our heart in prayer, offering one word in prayer, walking a labyrinth, listening to beautiful music, staring at the sunset, putting our toes in the sand, drinking a cup of coffee at the kitchen table, meditating on a verse or a phrase or something that brings hope, weeding in the garden, sitting in the park, lighting a candle.[/quote]

there are so many other possibilities, no matter how big or small, but i didn’t add “hanging out with a friend, caring for a person, giving, loving, or meeting a person eye to eye” for a reason. i think it’s so incredibly important and for me, that is by far the primary way that i connect with God–in the rub of relationship with human beings.

but i sometimes think it’s incomplete, too, and we have to also develop another pathway to refresh our souls with God that is something in the quiet, in the stillness, in the aloneness with God.

that’s my challenge for myself this week.

it’s not for everyone. some of you are feeling good with God and don’t miss him a bit. others aren’t feeling so good with God but “miss” isn’t quite the word.  for those who connect with this idea of “missing God” i wonder if we can just start with this:

1. i miss you

2. how can we get together?

3. for that little sliver of time, open our hearts up to hear, receive, engage, listen, notice, appreciate.

and if nothing happens in that moment, which it might not, maybe look for another random weird moment it does.  God can be sneaky like that.

have a great weekend.  love, kathy

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

23 Comments

  • I always appreciate your posts, Kathy! You’ve been so helpful to me on my journey. I, too, have had this sense of “missing God,” as I withdrew from the traditional expression of church. What I’ve learned, however, is that what I was missing was not God, but an artificial substitute for God. Our foods are full of all sorts of fillers and sweeteners that add no value, but only artificially enhance the flavor, which make our food seem bland and boring without them. I think, this is what so many of us experience when we step out of the church program in search of a real relationship with God. When all the artificial sweeteners (fancy worship bands, light shows, dynamic speakers, video productions, etc.) are removed, God seems downright boring, and we miss the artificial emotional experiences that we once interpreted as God. As I get to know Who God truly is, I’m beginning to settle into Him, and enjoy the peace and solitude where we engage with one another. The peace and solitude isn’t necessarily an absence of activity, but something that occurs, as our Spirits engage with one another. I do miss interacting with all the people at the weekly program, but can’t stand the artificial sweeteners anymore, and have opted to let Pappa lead me to people, as He sees fit, and I wouldn’t trade it…Him for anything!

    Reply
  • You are funny Kathy ”i really miss God today.”… then … ”and damn, i don’t want to miss God. i like being fine without him.”

    A “random wierd moment” for me

    I found for me a while back that I was out walking my littel Jack Russel on a beautiful day thinking of some injustice and hoe this thing whatever it was needed to be put right. I had am ephphany of Jesus on the cross saying “father forgive them”. And I know that was the right thing to do, so I prayed that same prayer. Of course now, it wasn’t me trying to be in control of dishing out justice but leaving that up to God. And what came with that was vulnarability. But also peace and the ability to appeciate the beauty that was around me.

    So the beauty and peace did come at the cost of vulnerability and me being humble. But what was happeing before wasn’t working for me. What I have learnt ids that however much we thnk we have evolved, we still have a thing that every living thing has which is a primal threat response to something and a hunting instinct. And that if we want connectedness, belonging, love appreciation of beauty etc we can’t have that while we feel threatened or are being driven by what we want.

    Jesus is a gentleman, he waits for the door to be open but if we end up going too far off the beaten path, we leave God to act in love in the way he works that CS Lewis talks of – with his megaphone PAIN!

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  • So, so good, Kathy — if this is what we have to look forward to from your book, I can’t wait ….

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  • Thank you for articulating that which whispers inside my head. I want to be free in God and not free from God. I miss being bound by God and I wander sometimes aimlessly outside of that bondage. I don’t quite know how to fully embrace the freedom still in God. But I know I can’t go back.

    Reply
  • We had to get away from the institution of church to find God. We found religion, “right thinking”, emotionalism, pretend relationships and more in institutionalized religion. Now we have Jesus and lots of real relationships.

    For us, a real key has been to try not to duplicate the way anything is done at church outside the church. It is a big mistake to assume that any of it works outside organized religion.

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  • I have had one or two other thoughtd sin my last posting. I wonder if it woudl be OK to shere them here. It’s a little different to my usual contribuution Kathy, please let me know if you are OK with me expressing such and I will know to do similar in future. Or if you find it not in keeping with the ethos of yout blog here, the mutual submission, dignified dialogue, fighting for each other, empowement, love etc and I will endeavour to change what I do for future posts.

    You mentioend you hate being vulnerable and talking of refeshing souls with God, missing God for yourslef all the time – inspiration that was tangible and accesible. Then also getting to expereince God in all kinds of ways in the refuge and then being busy for others and your family that you neglect your own longing for God.

    What this shouts out to me is approval. Approval of others in the rufuge and family. Are you driven by wanting to appear to be the good Christian woman, an old habit coming back maybe, so you will be liked and held up in the refuge and with your family? Do you feel you can be loved by others and God in a way that you are towards those in the refuge and your family? Do you feel you have to earn love? Can you allow yourself to be loved just for you? And can you give room to others to be of help for you so they can ge the same kind of joy that you get from helping others?

    Can I be cheeky and suggest a challenge? Just one thing in the next couple of days? To either let yourself be helped in some small way that you woudn’t normally alllow for yoursef? Or to risk someone’s rejection or disaproval in not doing somethign you would usually do or doing somethign you wouldn’t usually do?

    Someone I was dating last year appeared to be stong and felt strong and doing everything a Christina should. But as we grew closer she had anger at herself and with men she had dated before me and what she shared was that she had fear of rejection and dind’t feel she could be loved underneathe that anger, and wanted my approval when she said “it’s all about me”. Because I didn’t give my approval, she got upset. I assured her that she was OK the way she was, and that I could see God working in her life and for her not to worry. Sadly, she liked the feeling of being strong and appearing to be strong which ruled out vulnerability. And I still feel sad thinking about that now because in many ways we were great together. Of course with whatning to feel stong, she took control and finifnshed the relationship saying that she didn’t want to lead me on out of respect, and that she wasn’t ready for a reslationship. I remeber at the time feeling manipulated. if I were to have been respected that she would have chosen to be vulnerable with me, to be OK with facing fear of being rejected and letting love in with me. It would have honoured me for her to step oout of her comfort zone with me fo rher to do that. Or altenatively out of respect to have not got involved with me, leading to heartache for me. But I can’t control what someone else does and I did take the risk of vulnerabilily with getting close wiht her which I know could have ended up in pain or love.

    On another occasion I recall praying that we love ourselves, we let God in to have that. An elder spoke with me afterwards saying that he didn’t have time to debate with me about what I said about loving ourselves. I engaged with that by sainyg “If we can’t love ourselves, we can’t love others”.

    There you go – I’ve been vulnerable there. If I can do it, being a tough ex-military guy, so can you *wink*.

    OK I hope you are aliright with me being a littel more cheeky and challenging in this posting. Again please let me know if you are OK wiht that or if there is anything I have expressed here that is not in keeping with the conduct you would deem appropriate before God or the wider purposes in keeping wiht kingdom values.

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      • Thank you. I hope what i wrote was helpful and empowering to you to refresh your soul with God even if it it might have felt awkward for you to read.

        I felt challenged and encouraged to write what I did on reading what you said about the holy thing being to “show up, tell the truth, trust God, let go of the outcome” and what you talked about with Brene Brown’s understanding tha “courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart”

        I also have felt challenged on listning to and reading Paul Washer’s refreshing words “we love o hear of the cure, we love to hear of the love of God … But if a preacher who comes an says to us, ‘Your troubles are due to you”… is not going to be acceptable except to those who want to put their lives right.”

        With the lady I mentioned before, she described expereincing beauty joy, right relationship with Christ, saying that it had been down to me that she had experienced that having shared what she had about fear prior to that.

        I hear what you have shared about your fears. I hope you know your right sense of worth and that you are having faith, are not being afraid but of great courage that you will expereince real power and perfect love through connection with God.

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  • Thanks for this, Kathy. I really like the reminder of the importance of alone time with God. I tend to stick to the Alone with The Alone part and neglect the service of other people. I need to find the balance, I think.

    Thanks for how vulnerable and honest you are about your faith journey.

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  • I have thought of this several times in the past couple of days, and came back to re-read. I miss God so so much, and this piece really touched a timely nerve for me. Going to take a hike tomorrow and think about a psalm or two. I so miss that spiritual high from a camp or a conference, and could use an IV or two these days. 🙂

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  • Thanks, Kathy. I appreciated this so much. Reminds me that I need to create a space and offer up, “I miss you” or just a “here I am” and leave the connection part up to God.

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  • Kathy, do you buy the whole “Dark Night of the Soul” theory…that after the journey inward and all that unravelling, that we hit a period where God just seems absent no matter what we try?

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    • i do. a lot of people i know have had that experience. it’s so hard, especially when we try. this is why i sometimes think stopping trying for a season isn’t that bad of an idea to open up the possibility without all of that effort-that-ends-up-feeling-so-crappy.

      Reply

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