Why do we rush about looking for God
who is here, at home with us,
if all we want to do is be with God?
(Augustine, On the Trinity VIII)
“Ah, you again…”
I’ve always had a favorite neighborhood cat, everywhere I’ve lived. In central Berkeley, it was this tiny, round, soft-furred little delight with the sweetest little ears. Her name, according to her collar, was Donut. In my current neighborhood, my favorite cat is Matches, whose coat is the perfect mixture of tawny, brown, and white, and whose friendly demeanor charms me every time I encounter him.
I never know exactly which house the neighborhood cat lives in, or who owns it. I just know that, again and again, often when I’ve forgotten to expect it, I run into this familiar feature of my street.
The most staying spiritual lessons of my faith journey are often like those neighborhood cats. They’re special to me, and I like them, and they seem to have this nagging ability to keep showing up. I can’t say I completely understand where they come from, but I’m well acquainted with their repeat appearances: “Ah, you again…”
Don’t look for it outside yourself
Lately, I have been running into this particular cat quite frequently: God is already present with me, closer than my own breath.
I encounter this lesson when I sit in silence at the end of the day and notice a gnawing feeling of separation from God. My soul can get hurried — “Where are you?! Where are you?!” — and then I remember that God’s presence is immovable: it is only my perception of it that waxes and wanes.
I encounter this lesson when I am surprised by the beauty of creation and realize I have somehow forgotten that “every common bush is afire with God,” that every moment is ripe with invitations to come home.
I encounter this lesson when I listen to others speak about their faith journeys: it is a gift to sit on the outside and see the weaving threads of divinity moving in and out of another’s life, even when they’re not able to see it themselves.
The mystic poet Rumi writes:
Wait for the illuminating openness,
as though your chest were filling with Light,
as when God said, Did we not expand you?
Don’t look for it outside yourself…
Beg for that love expansion. Meditate only on that.
(from “A Basket of Fresh Bread”)
Don’t look for the illuminating openness outside yourself. Don’t rush heedlessly through life looking for the God who is already here.
For me, for now, this cat just won’t stop following me home. And thank goodness for that.