Yet the higher is experienced as a person; and the only way to know this is to experience it — if you will forgive the circular reasoning — personally.
It's like having a lover. When there is no one that you love, or you don't have a lover, there is no love, and love seem so distant that it seems not to exist. In a certain sense, without a lover, one knows nothing of love except for the longing of it. There is a wish for love; but no wish for love is a substitute for the touch of a lover, and anyone who has had a lover touch them knows this.
When one steps across the threshold of love — and I speak here only of that ordinary love we all know in our lives — it is a new world, filled with so many impressions that it is impossible to describe them; and this is what gives birth to the endless and timeless romance of books, movies, dance, art, poetry, and so on. In other words, love is an intimate and creative force that, once it touches you, can't be mistaken about, and it is all-consuming.
That is to say, love takes our Being and swallows it whole, so that we are within love and know of no other thing. Remember what this feels like; and remember what it feels like when it is not there — devastating, if one has lost it — and remember how it is the other, the other person, the other actor in this drama we call love, that supplies all of the meaning and the motive force not only for the drama itself, but also for the being — yourself — who is in relationship with it.
Now imagine that sweetness, and imagine that sweetness multiplied a thousand fold, no, ten million fold, or perhaps even without measure, and yet exactly an intensely personal one in the same way, so that you know that the one you are in relationship with is infinitely worthy, infinitely loving, infinitely graceful, and that they love you in return.
This is exactly what the presence and love of God's person is like; except, of course, for the fact that one can never exactly describe what the presence and love of God's person is like.
Although readers will think what they may, I will share an experience I've had of this fact.
Last night, I was driving home, and the route that I carefully planned didn't work out. I ended up taking a long detour down Pelham Bay Parkway in the Bronx, through the center of town, involving nightmarish traffic knots and endless delays at lights. My inner sensation never left me, but it was accompanied by an intense frustration that grew ever greater, because one of my deepest flaws is my impatience. Being, even in its most connected manifestations, must deal with nonsense like this, because we are filled with it.
I finally got through the traffic, and onto 87, at which point I was able to drive at a more satisfying, not to say irresponsible, rate of speed.
Then, suddenly, in an instant, I saw a green New York State road sign, with the cerulean blue of the fading day blended into the indigo of the night.
And in that moment—improbably, in a gentle yet utterly astounding inflow of angelic energy—God was there, personally, for just a second, in exactly the way that he was there in my dream a month ago. Exactly a month ago, as it turns out.
And the impression and the depth, the tangibility, the inestimable and impossible truth that moment, sank into me deeply, into the marrow of my bones. It was the same as my dream; and it is ever thus, because the Presence of God does not come otherwise.
Such things need not be rare. I hear people around me talk all the time about how the Presence of God seems distant, or theoretical, or ephemeral, mysterious, or even that it doesn't exist. Or that it is impossible to reach, etc.
But none of this is actually true.
God penetrates the marrow of the bones at every instant; and sometimes, if we are fortunate, we can know this. Then we know that we inhabit personhood as the personal representatives of the Lord; and although we will never understand, from where we are, the inscrutable nature of the drama we have been assigned to act out, we can have the privilege of that divine nectar, that manna, which is so generously dispensed at every instant—
if only we are present to it.