Life is full of synchronous moments. After our congregation’s Tuesday noon Bible Study, I took a reading sabbatical to finish Tony Kriz’s Aloof: Figuring Out Life with a God who Hides. We had been studying Colossians 1:15-20 and reflecting on the author’s vision of a god who is both cosmic and intimate. The god described in Colossians 1:15-20 moves energetically through all things, working through the realities of chaos, freedom, and randomness to bring forth a world of beauty. God is as present in our cells as our souls. The One present in Jesus of Nazareth holds all things together and gives life and wisdom to the church. The author of Colossians would be comfortable with creative processes of the big bang and cosmic evolution and would have understood the human adventure in light of God’s steady and patient inspiration.
Much to my surprise this same passage was invoked by one of Kriz’s mentors, Randy Woodley, who asserted that “The Spirit of the Creator is in all things, in the DNA of all….the Creator is present in all.” Building on the wisdom of Colossians and Kriz’s mentor, we might say, as Isaiah discovered, that “the whole earth is filled with God’s glory” (Isaiah 6:3) for those who have eyes to see.
The One most present is also the One most hidden. As the saying goes, it wasn’t a fish who discovered water! We are in a God-filled world, yet God is hidden in all sorts of disguises, some benevolent, some beautiful, and others broken and hideous. God is not stingy, but we are often simply not pausing long enough to notice the wonders of God’s world.
One of my favorite descriptions of God’s bountiful revelation is found in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek: “When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion….For some reason I always ‘hid’ the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe.”
We are always receiving free gifts from the universe, and manifestations of God, but these gifts, like Dillard’s pennies, appear far too insignificant to those who have places to go and things to do. In expecting something dramatic from God, we miss out on the moment by moment revelations of divine wisdom.
There is plenty of suffering and chaos in the world, some of it is the result of our decisions, other forms of evil the result of randomness and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These pockets of chaos often disguise God’s presence, but beneath them there is a Godward movement toward healing and wholeness, which is revealed to those who have eyes to see.
Moments of divine revelation happen on a daily basis. Those who pause will discover God’s presence in intimate and life-supporting ways. Synchronicities appear random until we learn to listen to movements of “hidden wholeness” (Thomas Merton), revealing God in all things and all things in God. We can always trust the winds of grace to carry us along and from time to time, regardless of our attentiveness. We can have unexpected Damascus Road experiences that turn our worlds upside sound and open our eyes to God’s vision for our lives. Still, the winds of grace propel forward those who raise their sails through silence, scripture, meditation, and community. Such activities do not insure mystical experiences, but awaken us to holy moments when they come our way.
Yes, God is often hidden, but the hiding is in plain sight, just waiting for us to wake up, smell the coffee, and embrace God’s abundant giftedness.