Building a Personal Prayer 2: Who Is Your God?

Creating God, Everlasting Mother/Father,
Patient, persistent, pursuing Lover

In seeking a relationship with us, God is patient and persistent. When I was on the Board that is responsible for interviewing candidates for ordination, many of them described years of avoiding God’s call to ordained ministry, and they often said that they wished they had not resisted God for so long.  But time as we know it is not a characteristic of God, who, seeing things whole, knew about each person’s resistance and patiently, persistently repeated the call.

God is a pursuing Lover. This phrase was added over time as I experienced God as Stalker. Everywhere I turned I felt God’s Presence pressing down, in, and around me. I couldn’t escape it.

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me”—Psalm 139:5.

The Presence was “There” at unexpected times and places, and in some cases I would encounter God when I passed through those places again. They were “thin places” – not because they were beautiful, quiet retreat places, but because God invaded them and me when I was there.[1]

The thin place where it happened most often was under the rope and door to the pull-down attic stairs. I passed under it going from my bedroom to the bathroom. Sometimes I would run past as fast as I could. I was in love with God, but I was afraid!

Another thin place was across the street from where I worked in downtown Boston. It was a busy intersection at the corner of Washington and State Streets, in front of a Christian Science Reading Room. The Presence brought me to a temporary halt and a favorite hymn came to mind, “In the Bulb there is a Flower” by Natalie Sleeth. I was grateful, and went on my way among other rushing commuters to catch the train home from work.

I didn’t have words to describe these experiences for a long time. Finally I learned to speak of them as numinous.

Rudolf Otto coined the term “Numinous” to express the type of fear one has for the Lord.[2]  Otto explained the numinous as a “non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self”…. a mystery… that is both terrifying (tremendum) and fascinating (fascinans) at the same time.[3]

C.S. Lewis references the term in many of his writings, …. and the fear of the numinous, as C. S. Lewis describes it, is one filled with awe, in which you “feel wonder and a certain shrinking” or “a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant of or prostration before it”. It is a fear that comes forth out of love for the Lord.[4]

These words finally gave me a language with which to talk about my experience with God.  I experienced God as a pursuing Lover – a Stalker.

“Stalker” is a strong word and none of our experiences of human stalkers is good, which makes it a difficult word to use in terms of God.  I knew God as Stalker, but if your life experience includes being terrified by a human stalker, another writing that captures the same feeling is the “Hound of Heaven.”

The “Hound of Heaven” is a 182-line poem written by English poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907)…. It was also an influence on J. R. R. Tolkien.[5]  Tolkien, author the Lord of the Rings said this about the poem:

 “The name is strange (The Hound of Heaven.) It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood. As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and steady pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by his divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to return to him alone in that never ending pursuit.” The Neumann Press Book of Verse, 1988[6]

You can read the poem here.

[1] Not familiar with “thin places”? Author Eric Weiner writes: “So what exactly makes a place thin? It’s easier to say what a thin place is not. A thin place is not necessarily a tranquil place, or a fun one, or even a beautiful one, though it may be all of those things too. Disney World is not a thin place. Nor is Cancún. Thin places relax us, yes, but they also transform us — or, more accurately, unmask us. In thin places, we become our more essential selves. ”Eric Weiner, “Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer” in The New York Times,, retrieved 1/24/2014
[2],  retrieved 1/24/2014
[3], retrieved 1/24/2014
[4],  retrieved 1/24/2014
[5], retrieved 1/28/2014
[6] Ibid.


About Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith has 20 years’ experience in technical writing and management in software companies. She also has more than 20 years in Christian ministry as an educator, course designer, retreat leader, spiritual director, pastor, and coach. A United Methodist Deacon, Smith has her M.Div. from Boston University. She is a graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance, and is certified in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Leadership from Boston College.
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