Saturday, August 13, 2011

Looking for the Face of God

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you; hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.
Psalm 102:1, Book of Common Prayer

            I grew up singing hymns, many of them great tunes coupled with dreadful lyrics. There were also some exceptionally lovely hymns, with a theology and melody I can still appreciate. This verse from the psalms brings one of them to mind; Edward Mote wrote the words to “The Solid Rock.” The third verse begins, “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace.” I cling to this idea—God does not turn away or hide the divine face from us, but darkness can obscure it. (Somehow we never have a problem thinking God has hidden from us when everything is going well.)
            Like most of the country, we’ve had odd weather here in my village this summer. I’ve seen the most amazing cloud formations presaging a storm, dark mounds with sunlight—glorious and bright—just behind them. The sun didn’t go anywhere; it was simply obscured.
            Many things can veil the face of God for us: sheer pain, weariness, lack of nourishment (because during treatment nothing appeals or tastes good), boredom because of enforced rest, and fear all come quickly to mind. Perhaps the sympathy and understanding expected from friends and family, whom we count on to be the hands and feet of God, isn’t there, or wears out when our disease refuses to remain in remission and continues over years instead of months.
            Then it’s tempting to believe God has turned away from us, that there’s some heavenly hide-and-seek game going on. But God doesn’t play games. God is utterly and completely for us, always not only by our side, but also on our side.
Here’s all I know—there’s something big going on. I’m just a small part in it, no more important than the cardinal that just landed on the tree outside my window, but no less dear to God the Unhidden One, either.

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