Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among (or within) you." --Luke 17:20-21
So I am learning to stop and look here for the kingdom. Mindfulness has been incredibly helpful with this. Mindfulness gives me the tool I need to slow down and find God among us, within me. It shines light on my experience so that I find God, who it turns out is woven among the thoughts and feelings and physical sensations and urges that make up any given moment.
I lost my first son to miscarriage at 14 weeks. Then I lost a child at 8 weeks, and then one at 12 weeks, and then one at 10 weeks. And then I lost a daughter to stillbirth at 37 weeks. Grief became a way of life for me, a finely honed craft that I practiced day in and day out, a 'new normal' that allowed me to keep up with my responsibilities but miss my children too. I grappled with bitterness and a deep sense of not belonging, of being treated unfairly, and I didn't see God as very good. But there was a kingdom experience in the midst of all that grief that carried me through those years. After my first loss, I tired one night of tossing and turning in bed and decided to take a midnight walk. It was September, and the streets of our small town were quiet. The air was warm, there was a gentle breeze. And as I walked under a tree (I remember the exact spot), I experienced an acute awareness of Jesus, suddenly and unexpectedly. He was with me, right beside me, closer than my breath. I have never forgotten the awe of that experience. God was with me -- Emmanuel, "God with us."
That is the kingdom, the way that we experience it within us. Sometimes God breaks through like he did for me in that moment of sleepless grief. Most of the time, we have to pause to pay attention if we are going to experience it. This morning, it took stopping to notice the breath flowing in and out of my lungs to notice that God was with me, giving me exactly what I needed.
His kingdom is right here, right now. Stop. Breathe. Notice. Open to the awareness of God, who is among us--within you and me.
I am Irene Kraegel. I work as a clinical psychologist and teach mindfulness on a faith-based university campus. I practice mindfulness because it opens me up to God (a.k.a. brings joy). I am writing here in hopes of sharing some of my experiences and thoughts related to the practice of mindfulness in the life of a Christian. Thanks for reading!
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