The water is everywhere in Tampa. A wide river winds through the city, slipping by skyscrapers and McMansions. Brief bridges span the little inlets and lakes scattered throughout the city and suburbs. The big bay stretches to the horizon, and, just beyond it, the cities of Clearwater and Saint Petersburg stand tall and proud before the Gulf. There, the sand is white, the sun hot, the water cool, and the daiquiris delicious.
And, yet, I am always forgetting about the water. Even though it surrounds me as I run errands, commute to work, and go out to dinner, I forget about it. I don’t enjoy it or appreciate it or even notice it enough. Instead, I get distracted and then consumed by the anxious voices in my head. I worry about money (how will I ever pay off my student loans?!?!) and housework (what if we buy the wrong chair for the guest room?!?!) and health (am I getting enough folic acid?!?!) and family (I should call my Grammy more often) and friends (I need to mail that bridal shower gift) and so on and on and on and so forth.
These are not frivolous concerns; family and finances and health and home are important. They deserve serious attention. They do not, however, deserve compulsive worrying, and my anxiety surrounding them ultimately hurts more than it helps. The concerns clutter my mind, like towering stacks of old magazines, appliance manuals, and campaign leaflets. They pile up and stand between me and the water. I can’t see or hear, much less feel, the waves, even when they’re lapping at my feet.
So it is also with the divine. Revelations of the divine are everywhere in our daily lives. They, like the water, wind through the world. A long conversation with an old friend. A good book. A beautiful song. A breath-taking sunrise. A life-giving sunset. A hot cup of coffee on a cold, early morning. Dare I say a frozen strawberry daiquiri on a hot, humid day?
None of these things are to be seen, much less worshipped, as God Himself. Rather, they are simply examples or perhaps even proofs of God’s ever-present grace and love. In the words of the Andrew Greeley, they are “the Holy lurking in creation.”
These revelations surround me, but my worries prevent me from seeing or hearing, much less feeling, them. Instead, I repeatedly echo the Psalmist, asking, “why, Lord, do you stand afar and pay no heed in times of trouble?” (10:1) or begging, “do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress” (102:3). Here I am surrounded by water and God, but I feel dry and deserted. Here I am talking with friends, reading books, listening to music, and watching the sunrise and still I shriek, “How long, Lord? Will you hide forever?” (89:47).
These, of course, are not frivolous questions. Oftentimes, (and sometimes it seems like every time), God does not provide the help I request in the manner and time in which I request it. He has not, for example, clarified exactly how I should pay off my student loans. Nor has She enabled me to effortlessly remember to make time to call my Grammy. As the Psalmist indicates, there will always be times when God, and even that divine grace and love, feel incredibly distant. Those times, however, seem less frequent for me when I see my loved ones and lovely things as revelations of the divine.
All those colorful sunsets and good books and best friends are reminders that God is not hidden. God does not stand afar. God does not hide His face. Even when we hear only our own anxious voices, God is still speaking to us. Even when we see only our own problems, God is still appearing to us. Even when we feel only our own fears, God is still present with us. Just like the waves lapping at our feet.