Today’s guest blog comes all the way from Connecticut, from Miriam Samuelson. Read on to hear about her journey at Divinity school and what unfolds in her spiritual formation group. For those of you who haven’t taken a moment to breathe this week, it’s a good reminder to stop, reflect, and see what arises.
During my first semester of seminary this past fall, I joined a spiritual formation group. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I knew it was open to all incoming students, and that we would work on spiritual issues together, so I signed up with little knowledge about how this hour and a half would be spent each week.
When I entered the small meditation room with a cluster of large chairs and six other students, the spiritual director leading our group introduced herself, and we offered our names and degree programs to one another timidly, all a bit shy about not knowing exactly why we were there. After a brief reading, prayer, and silence, our leader asked us where God had been in our lives the last week.
Where has God been in my life? I hadn’t really thought about it, especially not this past week. I had just moved a U-Haul 1200 miles, said goodbye to my friends and family for three years, embarked on a long distance relationship, and had suddenly started meeting new people everywhere I turned. My head was fuzzy from trying to get back into the mode of classes and reading and paper-writing, and I had spent the morning running from class to class, trying to learn the layout of the buildings and trying to figure out who I’d already met and who I was meeting for the first time. Taking time to think about where God was in all this transition hadn’t really crossed my mind.
But as I closed my eyes in this candle-lit room, surrounded by my peers who were feeling shaky and hectic like me, I saw clearly the places where God had been in my life over the past week. God had been present in my friends at home, who came over to my house unannounced and moved all my things into the moving truck before I could open my mouth to say they didn’t have to. God was present in a long stretch of highway in Pennsylvania where every turn revealed fog-covered trees pierced by a red-orange sunset. God was present in my travel companions—my dear friend and seminary roommate, his parents, and my boyfriend—all happy to share this time together and listen to one another’s stories and laughter.
Each week, this spiritual formation group would gather, and our leader asked us the same question: Where has God been in your life this week? Some weeks we didn’t know. Some weeks we were filled to the brim with life and spirit and experiences of God. Other weeks we had to learn how to see God in places that we might otherwise not want to go. Yes, God was certainly present in sunsets and laughter and friendship. But God was also present in the death of our friends and relatives, in the quiet moment after something vulnerable was spoken, in painful memories and changing relationships. God was present as the leaves died and crunched beneath our feet, as we talked about the fragility of our own human lives.
Where has God been in our lives? God is present in our most effervescent joy, God is present in our deepest anguish. And how do we know this? Because we are living incarnations of this ever-present God for one another. And what a gift to be able to open our hearts to this and to one another as we journey together.
Miriam is a first year in the Master of Divinity program at Yale Divinity School. One day she hopes to be a Lutheran paster in the ELCA. She loves people, the natural world, and learning new things.