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Angela Saldanha: The joy of being aware of God’s presence

By  Angela Saldanha, Guest Columnist
  • September 7, 2018

I left home in my teens; travelled afar, far from family and friends. Life in the new country was different,exciting, challenging. And horribly lonely. 

Letters from family were a great comfort. Reading them, I could forget for a while that there were thousands of miles between me and home; I felt close to home, close to people I loved. Writing letters back helped me feel connected, too.

One day a letter came from my dad and I settled down in my rocking chair to read.  As always, it was full of little details of home life. The crows had been nesting in the mango tree again and had had to be forcibly evicted; the temple flower was in bloom, the air fragrant. The house had just been repainted. Apparently the newly whitewashed living room walls looked too dull and bare for my little brother’s liking, so he had tried to improve things with his crayons …. 

I paused in my reading, feeling I was back home. I could picture Dad at his roll-top desk, writing, thinking about me, knowing how much I delighted in all these little titbits of news. And I had a sudden, overwhelming awareness of the deep love my father had for me. While my mind was busy absorbing this thought, there came another, even greater awareness, startling in its intensity: If this is how much your earthly father loves you, just think what the love of your Heavenly father must be like. 

The abruptness with which this notion had sprung, full blown, into my mind, a notion all at once so simple, so profound and so mind blowing, caused me to spring from my rocking chair. “God!” I shouted. “Was that You? Did You just say that?”   

He didn’t reply, not in so many words. But of course it was He — who else? 

I felt as though a light had been switched on inside me and for a few moments it seemed I was just basking in an inner glow. Then it faded, leaving me with this profound assurance of my heavenly father’s love. And of His constant presence in my life. 

As with human love, it’s not something I’m consciously aware of every minute. It’s something that is just there, buried under layers of concerns about daily matters. Reminders of it pop up unexpectedly in ways small and large. When something I’m trying to do happens to turn out just exactly right; when I  have a sudden inspiration, or a joyful surprise, or “a stroke of luck”; when amazing things happen “by sheer coincidence”; when a potentially fatal accident on the 401 occasioned by some speeding moron is averted just in the nick of time; I think to myself, “That’s Him!” He whose “eye is on the sparrow” keeping a fatherly eye on all His creatures. Never missing a thing. 

I think that my dad had this awareness of the presence of God, the God of all creation. Over-zealous preachers in his youth had, unhappily, turned him off “church.” He wanted nothing to do with organized religion. But shortly before his death, though house-bound, almost bed-ridden, he spoke of being content. “And everywhere I look,” he wrote, “I see something for which to praise the Lord.”

My kindergartener son had this awareness, too. He once insisted on dragging me away from my kitchen “busyness” into our backyard where a carpet of fallen oak leaves glowed gold in the late afternoon sun. “Look Mom!” he said excitedly. “Look what God’s done!”

Awareness of the presence of God is planted in the human soul at the very beginning of life. God has made us for Himself and is not going to let us forget it. He has endless ways of bringing Himself to our attention. Who among us does not breathe a fervent “Thank God!” when the dreaded bad news turns out to be not such bad news?                                                                                                                                           

Texting teens often write OMG! Whether or not we acknowledge it, we have this awareness that God IS! — and in unguarded moments we shout it out. Look what happens when sudden terror strikes. What’s the first thing everybody does, even the atheists among us? 

We yell out, “Oh my God!” 

(Saldanha is a writer who lives in Brechin, Ont.)

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