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Living Inside God's Great Story
Living Inside God's Great Story

The Cosmos Reveal God’s Great Love

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Living Inside God’s Great Story

The Cosmos Reveal God’s Great Love
Thursday, September 2, 2021

Brian McLaren grew up, as I did, in a very religious home, where “our story” was defined by strict religious obligations, with clear insiders and outsiders. However, a mystical experience in nature opened Brian up to God’s Great Story. He writes:

I grew up in a religious home. A full-dose, hard-core, shaken-together-and-my-cup-runneth-over, conservative, Bible-believing, Evangelical, fundamentalist Christian home. . . . Holidays and Sundays were just the spiritual appetizers. For the main course, there was also church every Sunday night. And there was a Wednesday night prayer meeting too. . . .

Some neighborhood buddies . . . invited me on a weekend retreat with the youth group from their Southern Baptist church. And that’s where spirituality snuck up and crashed upon me like an unexpected wave at the beach. The retreat leader sent us off on Saturday afternoon for an hour of silence during which we were supposed to pray. I climbed a tree—being a back-to-nature guy—only to discover that my perch was along an ant superhighway and that mosquitoes also liked the shade of that particular tree. But eventually, between swatting and scratching, I actually prayed. My prayer went something like this: “Dear God, before I die, I hope you will let me see the most beautiful sights, hear the most beautiful sounds, and feel the most beautiful feelings that life has to offer.” . . .

In spite of my sincerity, absolutely nothing happened. . . . [After supper,] a few friends and I snuck away to a hillside and found ourselves sitting under one of those sparkling autumn night skies. I walked several paces away from my friends and lay back in the grass, fingers interlocked behind my head, looking up, feeling strangely quiet and at peace. Something began to happen.

I had this feeling of being seen. Known. Named. Loved. By a Someone bigger than the sky that expanded above me. Young science geek that I was, I pictured myself lying on a little hill on a little continent on a little planet in a little solar system on the rim of a modest galaxy in a sea of billions of galaxies, and I felt that the great big Creator of the whole shebang was somehow noticing little, tiny me. It was as if the whole sky were an eye, and all space were a heart, and I was being targeted as a focal point for attention and love. And the oddest thing happened as this realization sank in. I began to laugh. I wasn’t guffawing, but I was laughing, at first gently, but eventually almost uncontrollably. Profound laughter surged from within me.

It wasn’t a reactive laughter, the kind that erupts when you hear a good joke or see somebody do something ridiculous. It was more like an overflowing laughter, as if all that space I had been feeling opening up inside me was gradually filling up with pure happiness, and once it reached the rim, it spilled over in incandescent joy. “God loves me! Me! God! At this moment! I can feel it!”

Brian D. McLaren, Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words (HarperOne: 2011), 5, 7, 8.

Story from Our Community:
I begin each day with the joy of these reflections. Full of wisdom and insight, new ways of looking and longing, I share them with friends, family, and grandchildren. I love Fr. Richard’s Franciscan incarnation theology of the “Christ-soaked world.” Nothing is wasted. Everything is sacred. —Liz M.

Image credit: Raul Diaz, White Sands New Mexico (detail), 2006, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: The natural grandeur of this photo reveals the creative and mysterious aspects of the Divine. But it doesn’t capture the dryness of the air, the heat of the sand, the sounds, the smells, and the tastes. That requires us to be there, present inside the landscape and story.
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