Is God there … only to disappear from view?
Our spiritual journeys take us on many hikes. Sometimes through difficult canyons with loose footings and steep slopes, at other times a walk in the Meadow surrounded by the majesty of nature and those that love us.
For much of this journey, we recognize God’s presence at the times when we are given the gift of Grace and the associated consolations. These may be times of great love, of reconciliation, of being at peace with God and with one another. These are easy to recognize, wonderful memories to fall back into when we’re not feeling so good.
However, as our journey continues, and we have these highs and lows of God’s presence, of dopamine-filled joy, punctuated by lows of sadness; these things tend to smooth out.
Over time during this journey, we begin to notice, sometimes in the very small things, that God is present when we are not having an uplifting experience. A time when we have a “felt presence” of God in our hearts and at our core. It’s as if the store of God’s grace, of inner peace is held within us, gradually being released, and at the same time being restored. Many things can upset this equilibrium. In the secular world it may be described as work-life balance, stress reduction, mindfulness, and other means to keep us in sync with our soul.
A secular world may tell us that the search we are all along is for happiness. Rather I might suggest that joy is the better option. Joy is pervasive whereas happiness tends to be fleeting. But joy does not mean that we are dancing on the streets like Saint Francis in the 13th century. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course.
Joy is a continuous movement towards God, sometimes loud, but often just quietly resident within us. Being exuded to others as they need it. No more no less.
Sometimes when this quietness overcomes us, when we aren’t getting those adrenalin-filled moments of the earlier consolations, we might think that God has left us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For it is here, with the apparent disappearance of God that we start to become one with God. One with our family. One with those around us. One with nature. One even with our enemies. Perhaps the last part is a bit of a stretch.
This movement where we begin to blend into nature and those around us God delivers us this change, a change that occurs sometimes so imperceptibly that we barely notice it ourselves, and yet the others around us see and feel the difference.
This Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to visit the redwoods in the northern part of California. I’ve been to the Sequoia Forest in California a few years ago and was colored impressed. However, as I walked through the trails in Northern California, with the redwoods towering over me hundreds of feet above me, surrounding me at a cool, refrigerator temperature, saying nothing but deafening me with their silence I was at one with them, and with nature.
Times like this we receive a glimpse, a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the permanent presence of God. Of the majestic nature of what is creation. What is US. And the US is we. And we are one.
The spiritual nature of all faith paths leads us in this direction. To be at one. To coexist in peace with each other and creation. It is a path that we are being led, one which requires us to listen to the power of silence and what surrounds us. All of what’s around us.
So, if God appears to have disappeared from view it may be that you’re not looking hard enough, you’re not listening quietly enough, or you’re pursuing God in your life as if not already present.
Of course, we know God is omnipresent, so perhaps we need to stop looking, and just be. As God is there, and always will be.
Amongst the Redwoods
Reflection and image Copyright 2023 Michael J. Cunningham OFS