A few weeks ago, while I was at a fall retreat, we were asked: “What is an encounter with God?” It seemed like a fairly easy, fairly general question at the start. But as soon as I sat down to think about it, to admit, I was at a loss of how to answer it. Sometimes, I suppose, it’s the most basic questions that are the hardest to answer.
So, let me pass this question on to you: What is an encounter with God? Take a moment to give this some thought before moving on.
The word encounter is defined in the dictionary as “to meet [someone] unexpectedly.” This leaves us with two points I’d like to reflect upon.
First – when we encounter God, we actually meet with Him. We don’t merely see Him from afar; we see Him immediately before us, and we realize that we are immediately present to Him. With this in mind, common experiences of God – seeing Him in the beauty of nature, in music, or in each other – may or may not actually be encounters with Him; it all depends on the extent to which we actually allow God to speak to us in these circumstances, and to which we take the time to speak with Him.
Encountering God means seeing God present immediately before us. An encounter with God means that God Himself comes to meet us where we are. And in this meeting, if it is a true meeting, we allow ourselves to be opened to receiving His actions and His words.
A second point remains. An encounter is unexpected. This means that we have to be prepared to make room for God, whenever we find Him present right before us, because – to slightly repurpose a quote – “Of that day or that hour no one knows.” (Mk 13:32) God can only thoroughly transform you if you give all of yourself to Him – and that means giving Him time and space to work on you at any moment that He asks for it. And only as you live open to these encounters can you truly say you have a living faith, and not a faith confined to the Sunday morning “religion category.” In other words, we are called to structure our days in a way that opens the doors to God’s grace!
Today, I’d like to challenge you to consider how you have encountered God in the past. See how He has opened up opportunities for you to speak with Him, visit with Him. Ask yourself whether you have taken them or not. And then: open your heart to see how He approaches you now, waiting for you reciprocate, and to meet Him there.
“And the Lord came and stood forth, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”” (1 Sam 3:10)
(Special thanks to Fr. Aloysius, Redeemer Pacific College chaplain, for inspiring this post!)