When a person reaches out to a lonely person in friendship, God’s Spirit is at work in her. Whenever a person writes to a government official encouraging greater justice for the poor – whether or not his effort bears fruit, God’s Spirit motivates him. God’s Spirit is not out there somewhere dropping in occasionally to lend us a helping hand. The Spirit is inseparable from life. Traditional religious language that prays for her to “come down” or “visit” us from on high can obscure that fact.
What difference does that make whether God’s Spirit is here or out there? Does it matter whether or not we need to ask God for help or God is constantly working for our welfare and growth?
For those who don’t speak of or imagine the world and themselves using images of God and Christ it doesn’t matter. They have other ways of envisioning their union with life and its future. For Christian how God relates to us matters a lot.
First of all, the foundation of the human family is the presence of God creating and pulling us all forward to his promised future. It’s that action of God in all of us that unites us, whatever our differences, into one human family.
Secondly, our lives are often difficult and confusing. The obstacles we face and the lack of any obvious path through confusing choices frequently overwhelm us. For those possessing our faith, knowing that our Creator is involved in our struggles rather than watching with occasional interest is a source of strength and courage. Jesus’ life reflected for us God’s determination to do everything possible to assure the fulfillment of human potential. That revelation frees us from the nagging fear that our best efforts may accomplish no lasting good.
Though God’s constant immersion in our lives is frequently missing from official prayers and popular piety, the realization of his total and unalterable engagement in human reality is deeply embedded in Catholic theology. We needn’t wait for the slow rewriting official books to change our own habitual image of God.
God is at work for our growth before we’ve developed the slightest inkling that new possibilities lay before us. God isn’t behind us waiting to be invited up to join us or even beside us waiting to be told what we need. God is ahead, never taking his eyes off of us, drawing us forward and giving us everything possible for the journey into the future he promises.
The effort to believe, imagine and constantly search out God’s creative presence in life will bring a new maturity to our spirituality. It will also offer a firm foundation to the respect for all of life and creation itself that is essential to practicing the Christian morality that we long to live.