Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Held by God

Okay, so now you’re gonna think I’ve gone off the deep end.

I’ve had a lot going on lately, and when I wake at night, I start thinking of all those things I need to do, should have done, am anxious about.  I don’t mind when I use such nocturnal musings constructively, as when a post or talk or retreat comes to me and I develop it, lying still. But when my thoughts serve no purpose, I am bothered that I’m losing sleep over them. The worry gene runs in my family, so I’m not alone.

Lately my usual way of simply blocking thoughts, or using a mantra, verse, short prayer, or Psalm 23 has not been working, so I’ve discovered a new strategy.

I imagine I’m being held by God: the soft bedding, the warmth of Wade, the firmness of the mattress, the caress of the ceiling fan, the enveloping darkness become God holding me. And lest you think I am centering God on me, I believe this is true for everyone.

Process theology talks of the cosmos as God’s “body.” God is not separate from the world—what is material is God’s incarnation, God’s embodiment. And body theologians try to recover the body as a locus of divinity. So I do have theological legs to stand on.

And Christianity’s premise is the Incarnation, that God became one of us, and offers God’s body and blood that we may become the Body of Christ, an agent of redemption in the world. So I also have a Christian leg to stand on.

Jesus said the kingdom or commonwealth of God was coming into the world and already in our midst. The trajectory of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is that of God coming into the world, not abandoning it. And Paul remarked that the whole creation was groaning in birthpangs to bring something new into the world, and that in God “we live and move and have our being.” So I have a biblical leg to stand on.

I also believe that I’m a part of God as well, so I think of cuddling with Wade as having divine inspiration. Teresa of Avila said that on earth, God’s body, Christ’s body is our own. And Augustine’s spiritual goal was resting in God. So I have church tradition behind me.

My “ah-hah” is how good it feels to be held by God and to hold as God. It awakens a new kind of eroticism, if you will, that feeling of bliss one experiences in the unity of lovemaking or prayermaking. I’ve written elsewhere that “eros” is our “urge to merge,” what inspires the lover as well as the mystic.

I’ve also spoken and written about the Beloved Disciple, who lay his head on Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper, “listening for the heartbeat of God,” as Celtic Christianity would have it. I’ve poked fun at recent English translations of that passage that seem to keep distancing the beloved disciple until I fear the next translation will have the beloved disciple in another room entirely!

The NRSV translates simply that the beloved disciple is “reclining next” to Jesus. But it also translates John 1:18  as Jesus being “close to the Father’s heart” rather than the actual meaning, that Jesus is “close to the Father’s bosom.”

What I believe is that we fear such intimacy with God, one of the earliest themes of my writing on spirituality, a cover article for Presbyterian Survey in the 1980s.

Jesus experienced or was experienced as being a child of God, the essence of Yahweh, and the mystical gospel writer John declared that Jesus came so that we might all be children of God. So I have a mystic’s reason for my experience.

I encourage you—no, I urge you—imagine yourself being held and touched and cuddled by God. Imagine God dwelling in you, your breath, your body, your touch.

It feels good because it is good.

Related post:

Pleases support this blog ministry by clicking here and scrolling down to the donate link below its description or by mailing to MCC, P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota FL 34232 USA, designating “Progressive Christian Reflections” in the memo area of your check or money order. Thank you!

Those who donate $100 or more will receive a signed gift copy of my book, Communion of Life: Meditations for the New Millennium.

Copyright © 2016 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.  


  1. Thanks, Chris. I often think what would happen if i did this more and more. I often thought that if i allowed such all the time, i would probably be dead soon. I don't know if you understand what i am saying and it is not that complicated. It is like as if i would actually discern and try to be in concert with the "be all" all the time, i would not survive physically for very long because that is not very important in the sense of the "be all". Anyway, also, because of how such practice sometimes causes me to be with others, i hesitate because they then expect it all the time or i project that they do and i would lose myself.

    1. Yes, I understand. This way of thinking does make death seem less fearful for me, as it will be one more way of "being all," as you say. And I find I am not completely "successful" maintaining this, but that's true of any spiritual discipline, I think--it's meant to give us a taste of what can be, not what "is" all the time.

  2. Thanks for this Chris! I think this meditation on intimacy with God is an important one for men in particular, and western men to be even more specific. I know that for myself it can be difficult to embrace a vision of God with this level of physical closeness, but I find that when I do engage it there is a very gripping sense of communion. One of the visualizations I go to most often is simply hands on my shoulders. It's not as intimate as being held, but even this small impression of touch creates a peace that I otherwise might not experience. Thanks again for this!

    Nicholas Tangen

    1. Thanks, Nicholas. Your visualization makes me think of Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son that has the father placing his hands on the prodigal's shoulders in welcome. Henri Nouwen was deeply moved by seeing this after a spiritually exhausting speaking tour of the U.S., wanting that kind of welcome. He too found peace in that gesture. Thanks for writing!

  3. In spiritual direction my incessant director asked me for the thousandth time "what do you want?"
    My answer was "I want to be held"
    (We had had this conversation on a number of occasions)
    And he asked "what it would be like for Jesus to hold you?"
    My answer, on some reflection, is that I needed some touch.
    I do need to say that some years ago I was ravaged by Jesus whilst on retreat.
    It was a profound experience for me
    But I think the Incarnation demands that we understand that the touch of Christ will be mediated by the Body of Christ....not all of them...but it is material, intimate and real, and individual.
    What do I really want? To be held by Jesus will be through one of us who is his material presence to the world

    1. Amen! I believe it was the writer John Milton who also wanted to be "ravished" by God. I think too of Jacob wrestling with God. In my early years of ministry, giving spiritual counsel to LGBT people, I would always conclude with, "If Jesus were here now, what do you think his response to you would be?" Invariably they gave some form of "I think he would embrace me." I think Incarnation is about God wanting to touch us. Jesus is God made most personal.

  4. Your lovely reflection reminded me of the amount of energy that we have spent for at least 800 years on constructing apologetics in order to simply say, "I have experienced being held by God," for fear of not being taken seriously. I am blessed by your courage in the face of inner/outer voices demanding a caveat. Beautiful stuff.

    1. Thanks, Pressley, for this wonderful affirmation! And yes, we have worked for centuries fully appreciating being held by God.

    2. I am reminded of the sculpture by Bernini, Ecstasy of St. Teresa where she is so clearly in God's erotic embrace.

  5. Thank you for sharing such an amazing and informative post. Really enjoyed reading it. :)nice articles...Please read more....

    Look to God for a Happy Marriage