A legend says that, at the beginning of time, God resolved to hide himself within his own creation. As God was considering how best to do this, the angels drew around him.
“I want to hide myself in my own creation,” God said. “I need to find a place that is not too easily discovered, for it is in their search for me that my creatures grow in spirit and in understanding.”
“Why don’t you hide yourself deep in their earth?” the first angel asked.
God pondered this a moment and replied, “No, it will not be too long before they learn how to mine the earth and discover all the treasures it contains. They will find me too quickly, and they will not have had enough time to do their growing.”
“Why don’t you hide yourself on their moon?” said the second angel.
“God gave this more thought but then replied, “No, it will take them a little longer, but eventually they will learn to fly through space. They will arrive at the moon and explore its secrets—and they will find me too soon, before they have had enough time to do their growing.”
The angels were at a loss to suggest any more hiding places. There was a long silence.
“I know,” piped up one angel, finally. “Why don’t you hide yourself within their own hearts? They will never think of looking there!”
“That’s it!” said God, delighted to have found the perfect hiding place. And so it is that God secretly hides deep within the heart of every one of God’s creatures, until that creature has grown enough in spirit and understanding to risk the great journey into the secret core of its own being. And there, the creature discovers it creator, and is rejoined to God for all eternity.
(from One Hundred Wisdom Stories, by Margaret Silf)
It is an interesting story from a number of perspectives:
Firstly, it raises the question: Is God hiding from us? Is God playing a game of hide and seek with us? That in itself is an interesting perspective, because it suggests that at the heart of creation, there is something very playful going on.
The little story is interesting from another perspective, because it suggests that if God is hiding from us, then it is not just done out of playfulness, but also with an educational purpose. God hides from us so that in our search for ultimate meaning and purpose we grow and discover things about us and the world that we didn't know before.
Is it possible that God often remains just out of sight as it were in order to stimulate our own growth and discovery.
In Jeremiah 29:13 we read: “You will seek me and you will find me when you search for me with all your heart”. The words, “seek” and “search” would seem to support the view that God is not always immediately self-evident and is therefore in some way hidden from us.
But there could also be an argument that suggests that God does not hide at all from us. St Paul suggests in Romans that the invisible qualities of God have always been there for people to see, if they have eyes to do so:
Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”
It is an interesting verse, because it speaks of God’s qualities being clearly seen, and yet those qualities themselves are invisible. In other words, not completely self-evident or immediately visisble. If God is hiding, then Paul indeed believes that God is hiding in plain view.
Ultimately in this little story or legend, the point is not that God is hiding Gods-self, but rather that if we truly wish to find God, we should begin to look within. As some have said: God is an inside job. For anyone who is deliberately embarking on a spiritual journey, at some point, that journey will have to take us inward, to discover God in the depths of our own hearts.
It has often intrigued me that when Christians speak to children about Jesus, often they will tell them that Jesus is in their heart. But somehow by the time children become teenagers and adults, we no longer think of God or Christ within us. By that time, we begin to speak of God, almost exclusively as living outside of us. Most of the time, we speak of God living far away, in heaven and sometimes God visits us, most especially 2000 years ago in Jesus, but for the most part we think of God as somewhere out there.
There are a lot of Bible verses that would speak of God somewhere out there and above us, but we are so conditioned to thinking God is external to us that we fail to see that in numerous places in the Bible tradition, God is spoken of as existing within the human heart.
- Colossians 1:27 speaks of the mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory.
- 2 Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul asks a question: “do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?”
- Romans 8:10 “But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.”
- John 14:20 “On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
We read Luke 17:20-21 “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
Not all translations translate it like that. Some translate it to read: The kingdom of God is in your midst. The Greek word ‘entos’ from which we would get our English word to ‘enter’, more accurately means “within”. The Kingdom of God is within you.
That is quite a revolutionary concept. If we spend our lives looking for God outside of us, waiting for God to sweep in from the outside, we might miss God altogether, because God is within. God is this deep and powerful internal resource within us. An inner strength that we didn’t know was there. God is an inner source of refreshment and inspiration like a great under-ground pool of water that we can draw on if we take the time to quietly go in.
This image is found in Psalms 46:4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
What the Psalmist is referring to is the underground "Spring of Gihon”, whose waters were brought into Jerusalem by a tunnel. It is what made Jerusalem so strong against external attack because there was a resource of fresh water from within that could sustain them even when they were under siege. And so, here it is used as a symbol of God's refreshing presence... a presence within.
This is emphasized again in verse 5 where, God is described as being within. “God is within her, she will not fall”.
How might one begin to access this refreshing presence of God within? Later in the Psalm, in verse 10, we are given a clue:
“Be still, and know that I am God”
The Hebrew word “raphah” means to sink, relax, abandon, let go, be still.
When we allow ourselves moments to relax, let go and sink into stillness, we discover this stream of God’s presence within.
And so, when the storms are raging on the outside, when the nations are in turmoil, may you make moments for stillness, where you and relax and let go in the silence, discover the stream within that makes glad the city of God, and In Being Still, to discover the Infinite Presence of God hiding quietly, softly, gently within you.