Each day, each moment, perhaps even each minute affords us a new opportunity to experience the magnificence of God anew.
I realize that is a pretty broad, and general statement. As much as that may be a very broad statement, I believe it to be true. Often those of us to hang out in religious communities can become complacent. An easy pitfall for any of us on this journey is to become complacent. I believe it is easy for Christians to become lulled into believing that we have already come into relationship with God and need less to seek strongly after God. We have accepted that God is an integral part of our lives, and declare that in our weekly professions of faith, how could we possibly need to seek for God on a regular basis? I believe it is also true that we sometimes overthink the places where we believe we will see God. That is to say that we expect the presence of the Divine when we gather for worship, when we visit beautiful Cathedrals or chapels, or even when we visit the natural cathedrals of God’s making like a tall redwood forest or a still and serene day on a saltwater bay. I think these constructs, that are of our own making, often prohibit us from seeing the infinite and abundant presence of God as it can be found in even the smallest moments, and in the most unexpected persons and places. The beauty of God is all around us. Do we notice?
Gregory of Nyssa writes about the constant discovery of God’s grace as an experience that is infinite. He describes it as a renewable spring that cannot be exhausted.
As you came near the spring you would marvel, seeing that the water was endless, as it constantly gushed up and poured forth. Yet you could never say that you had seen all the water. How could you see what was still hidden in the bosom of the earth? Hence no matter how long you might stay at the spring, you would always be beginning to see the water. . . . It is the same with one who fixes his gaze on the infinite beauty of God. It is constantly being discovered anew, and it is always seen as something new and strange in comparison with what the mind has already understood. And as God continues to reveal himself, man continues to wonder; and he never exhausts his desire to see more, since what he is waiting for is always more magnificent, more divine, than all that he has already seen.*
I find this description to be particularly apt. As much as I may have experienced the overwhelming love and beauty of God in my life in many ways already, I am deeply conscious of the fact that what I have seen is but a portion of the love that God continues to be able to pour out for me. I am pleasantly surprised when God shows up in unexpected places, at unexpected times, with overwhelming beauty. I suspect many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Many of you have experienced this as well. Think of those times when you have felt that God has been so abundantly present, giving you so much grace, offered you so much healing, and giving you so much hope that you could not imagine how God could possibly be more present. But then somehow someway, whether it be weeks, months, or years later, you see more of God’s love, more of God’s healing, or more of God’s forgiveness and it flows forth as if ‘a spring of water that bubbles up’ bringing refreshment and peace for one’s soul.
God’s grace is all around us. God’s love and God’s beauty is to be found in even unexpected places. Sometimes we come to know the overwhelming presence of God in the simplicity of an encounter with a stranger. Sometimes God decides to reveal the spirit of love through a child. Sometimes God chooses to visit in the midst of the broken. Sometimes God will even speak to us in the words of our enemies. God is present in our dark valley and beside us when we stand at the summit. As long as we are open to it, the beauty of God’s love is constantly being discovered a new… And it always seems strange in comparison to what our mind has already decided it should look like. Each time we encounter God’s unbelievable love we are catching but another small glimpse of an inexhaustible and infinite source of hope.
So I pray for the wisdom to continue to keep my eyes and ears open to see the God of hope, and hear the word of Love spoken to me in unexpected ways and from unexpected places.
*Gregory of Nyssa, quoted in Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 302.