“What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me,” she writes in the introduction, “is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table.”
Not me. At my table I find a red-head who still tumbles from the dining room chair at least twice each week. I find boys who wrinkle their noses and curl their lips in disdain at the plates placed before them. I find stress and anxiety and the need to please, especially when our table is ringed with guests. Yeah, clearly God is busy dining at Shauna’s table. The food must be better over there.
Even though I couldn’t relate to Shauna’s declaration of God at the table, Bread and Wine did prompt me to ask myself one important question, a question I’ve never really considered:
Where do I find God’s presence most profoundly?
Although I’d never asked myself the question outright, I knew the answer right away.
Shauna Niequist finds God at the table. I find God outdoors.
We are just back from ten days in the desert – southwest Utah, to be exact. I’ve always wanted to visit the desert. Ever since I read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, I’ve been drawn to that austere landscape. I’ve yearned to immerse myself in that barren land dotted with prickly plants and brilliant blooms, a land that demands the utmost vigilance and respect, a land that could kill you if you’re not careful.
I’m used to big here in Nebraska. When we first moved to Lincoln 12 years ago, I couldn’t get over the sky. I was convinced the clouds hung lower here than in New England. Ironically the sky, in its vast endlessness, stifled me. I felt claustrophobic, oppressed by the sky’s too-muchness. Utah, on the other hand, is a different kind of big.
In Nebraska, the infinite sky makes me feel small. In Utah, the awesome land itself diminished me.
Utah is skyscraping towers of sandstone, jagged boulders the size of my house, rock wind-worn and petal-smooth, roiling rivers cutting canyons thousands of feet deep. Utah lets you know you could be squashed flat like a bug in a blink. I felt like a crumb in the shadow of all that rock. Like a speck. Like nothing.
“Let’s stand still for a minute and be really quiet,” I suggested to the boys during an early evening hike. We set our water bottles on the hot sand and turned to face the open desert. The air was still and cool, the day’s searing heat diminishing in minutes as the sun dipped behind a soaring sandstone arch. Slabs washed golden jutted like shark fins from a sea of sand and sage and pinyon. Sheets of rain smoldered over the distant mountains like smoke, the sky bruised to an ominous purple.
Not another human soul was visible as far as we could see. We heard no sound. Not a distant car or airplane. Not another human voice or a bird. Not even the sound of the wind in our ears.
“It’s pretty,” Noah said after a few seconds, “but a little bit creepy, too. It’s just so quiet. And big.” I nodded. I felt it, too.
Utah land is humbling, reminding you of who you are and how small you are in the scope of an infinite universe. Utah land puts you back in your place.
Utah land reminded me not only that I feel God’s presence most profoundly outdoors, but also that God is far, far bigger than I could ever possibly conceive.
So tell me, where do you find God’s presence most profoundly?
*photos taken at Arches National Park, Utah