|Spirituality For Life|
|Page: Hiddenness of God|
Its color blending with the color of the ground, the goanna crossed my path alongside a pond. It jumped into the pond and in stillness waited with only its head above water – again barely noticeable among the Salvinia leaves. Finally, the creature swam to the tree growing in the water and climbed up. It sat motionless half a meter above the water, again almost inconspicuous against its background. Not aware of its presence, any passerby would easily have missed seeing it.
Camouflage is a familiar phenomenon in nature. For many creatures, it is their chief line of defense against predators – a vital means of survival. Insects living on the ground or among leaves, such as grasshoppers, frogs, caterpillars, and praying mantises, are brown or have subdued shades of green. Birds in tropical and semi-tropical areas, such as lorikeets and parrots, blend into their surroundings with their bright green attire. Some animals change color with seasons so as not to stand out in their environment. Hares in temperate climates, for instance, grow a white winter coat to make them inconspicuous in snow, and exchange it for a beige or brown one in spring to blend with the surrounding hues. And remarkably, chameleons change their color at short notice if their environment changes. Only upon closer observation do we become aware of the presence of many living creatures.
Not only did the Creator aspect of God – which is the Mind and Life Force in and behind all living things – build camouflage into nature, but it can be discovered that God himself uses camouflage! God’s presence in the world is not obvious. “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't” wrote Blaise Pascal. God’s existence cannot be irrevocably proven, or disproven. There is room for other explanations for the existence of the universe and life, supporting the arguments of those who wish to profess being atheists. By contrast, strong evidence suggests a supernatural mind behind all things. Nonetheless, when witnessing misery and suffering caused by human inhumanity or natural forces, many ask if God indeed exists. Some theologians write about God’s hiddenness.
All religions agree that the true and absolute Reality and Consciousness referred to as God is beyond human comprehension and expression in any language. Anything we may describe as God is only a symbol, analogy, or metaphor that we can get our minds around. God is far more, far greater, and far beyond anything we can imagine or put into words. The physical world, however, contains signs and attributes of the ultimate Reality. If we realize that everything around us points to the indescribable God, beyond time and space – remembering at all times that whatever we see is not God – we can catch glimpses of the Ultimate.
Perception of anything is individual and relative. How we perceive people, events, or even our surroundings, depends to a large degree on our disposition, our personality, our knowledge, our experiences, our prejudices, and even our mood of the moment. The axiom that beauty is in the eye of the beholder applies in principle to perception of what we consider to be right or true in the human realm, as well as in the realm of God and spirituality. A cynic or pessimist, shaped through their earlier experiences, views life negatively – people as inherently evil, the universe as unfriendly, and God as harsh or non-existent. An optimist’s perception of life, under similar circumstances, is positive and hopeful.
God, the Divine Reality and the one Source of All, is both hidden and perceivable – not unlike the goanna silently nestled on the tree trunk. Only upon a closer, careful look, with an open mind and heart, are God’s attributes and presence perceived – be it in nature, circumstances, external events, or in one’s interior life. And, just as sometimes another person is needed to show us the camouflaged goanna clinging to the bark on the tree, we may need a spiritual guide to help us discern God’s presence. For those seeking or yearning to develop a greater awareness of God, the following principles are offered for personal reflection.
Firstly, God’s attributes may be perceived in what exists. We sense the transcendent in a spectacular sunrise, a brightly-colored butterfly fluttering from flower to flower, or a lovable kitten sleeping peacefully in front of a fireplace on a winter’s evening. We are awed by a star-filled night sky illuminated by a full moon, a towering snow-capped mountain, or an ancient tree of gigantic proportions. And, closer to the home front, we intuit divine Providence in the variety of nutritious foods on the table, the spontaneous acts of kindness from our loved ones, or the manner in which all our needs are graciously met.These all give us a sense of personal smallness contrasted with an almost perceptible awareness of the Mystery beyond.(1)
Second, through eyes of faith, one can recognize the Divine Presence in human behavior – be it the love between a man and a woman, the tenderness of a mother for her baby, the sacrificial devotion of parents toward their growing children, or the tireless service of aid workers toward the marginalized living in extreme poverty. Human creativity in the realms of music, art, sculpture, poetry, and writing also attests to divine inspiration.
Third, Divine love and grace are perceivable in heroic rescue efforts and selfless sacrifice witnessed after disasters. Volunteers rally and travel long distances to alleviate untold suffering in areas devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes.
Fourth, a Divine Hand may be discovered or noticed in our own experience, often retrospectively. Sometimes from the dark recesses of the past, we now see events in a splendid new light, and what appeared as losses were in fact great gains. We recognize the special moments of transcendence – something beyond us and outside the ordinary. It can be the chance meeting a special person who becomes our life partner and soul mate. The love shared between friends is likewise undeserved and profound. Experiencing or witnessing the birth of one’s own child often gives the parents an overwhelming sense of the mystery of life in which they have been co-creators of a new and unique human being.
Fifth, transcendent moments are varied. This may be protection when disaster was certain, such as the miraculous avoidance of a car crash. It can also be a special breakthrough, when all circumstances came together just at the right time, even without undue effort on our part. Then, there is the inspiration in a creative endeavor – we sense ourselves creating in partnership with an outside Source of help, as well as being touched from within, and what we have produced is more than our own effort. Another grace moment occurs when a heart is supernaturally softened and the person is enabled to let go of anger and bitterness, and to forgive the other who has grievously wronged them.
Sixth, Divine grace can be experienced in fearful life situations – such as in disaster, terminal illness, tragic death of a loved one, failure and great loss, or abandonment and loneliness. Having exhausted our options and stretched seemingly beyond our limits, here in our darkest hours we may, perhaps for the first time ever, cry out for help to a Higher Power. And often, there is a sense of being upheld, helped, and supported. While anguishing to deal with at the time, these experiences may ultimately become life-giving turning points.
Seventh, God’s footprints can be found in sacred writings. The Holy Scriptures, for example, show God at work in history and in the lives of ordinary individuals. The Old Testament, referred to as the Hebrew Scriptures in the Jewish context, deals primarily with the nations of Israel and Judah, descended from the patriarch Abraham (see the books of Genesis through to 2 Chronicles). The history as related in the Scriptures is based upon reality, but is also metaphorical – and so has a universal application for life.
Eighth, the Word of God provides divine wisdom principles, as well as examples of human experience in response to God (see, for instance, Psalms, Proverbs, and the book of Job). Through prophecy, the Old Testament points to the coming of a Savior, and ultimately a restoration of the earth and the universe (see the books of Major Prophets and Minor Prophets).
Finally, the New Testament introduces the prophesied Savior, Jesus Christ, showing how he fulfilled the Old Testament writings and brought salvation to humanity. Jesus also becomes a symbol, an embodiment of the Ultimate Reality, whom he refers to as his Father. After the death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven of Jesus, the Holy Spirit becomes available by grace to those called to a love relationship with God. Through the Holy Spirit in human hearts and minds, the perception of God increases, Scriptures are opened to understanding, and lives become more kind and loving.(2)
The one, transcendent Creator God desires humans to seek and find him. Even though he is incomprehensible and beyond our dimension of existence, he is also not far from each one of us. He does not often communicate in dramatic ways – but rather in a small still voice within, through another person, a special moment or circumstance, or a piece of writing. If we look for and become attuned to these moments of grace in ordinary things and events, we will be amazed and indeed awed at their frequency. It is all a matter of awareness, discernment, and perception. Even though God is camouflaged in the fabric of life, and speaks in quiet whispers, we can become conscious of his very real presence.(3)
(1) Psalms 19:1-6 and 65:10; Acts 14:15-17; Romans 1:19-23.
(2) Luke 24:25-27, 44-47; John 14:8-11; Acts 1:4-8;1 Corinthians 2:8-16; Galatians 5:22-24; Hebrews 9:28;
(3) 1 Kings 19:11-13; Acts 17:27
© Original writing by Eva Peck, 2011; edited by Alexander Peck
Photo credit: Intellimon Ltd.
Further information about the hiddenness of God:
In the Book of Psalms, the psalms of lament lead us finally to the deepest dimension of the witness of the Bible: faith’s acknowledgment that the God who reveals himself in history remains hidden. See a short article under the following link: The Hiddenness of God.