God Disguised as Life
by Dr. Jerry Webber, DMin, Doctor of Ministry Spiritual Direction and Formation Specialization Director, Houston Graduate School of Theology Conventional wisdom says that God “shows up” at certain times, in special places, and in some people when the conditions are right. Our language suggests that, in certain, hallowed moments, God is present. Surely God is more present Sunday in the church building than on Monday in the classroom or boardroom or at the job site.
“God showed up,” we say, as if God were present in one moment, but not in the next. “Let’s draw near to God,” we implore, as if we could change our geography—physically or spiritually—in order to cozy up next to God. “God is present in that place,” we testify, as if God dwells in one place—the chapel, perhaps—but not in other places, like the grocery store. The common misconception that certain times, places, people, and conditions are carriers of God, while others are not, compartmentalizes life. It draws lines between the sacred and the profane, the inside and the outside, the holy and the common.
Yet, we also experience moments when the compartments are shattered, when our eyes are opened to the holiness of ordinary experience: walking your dog in the moonlight or a sudden fly-by of geese. Perhaps you catch a glimpse of Jesus’s face in a surprising place: the stranger in the parking lot or the teen who has been difficult. At other times, a place that usually feels bereft of Spirit suddenly feels shot-through with Presence: your workplace or the waiting room at the DMV.
A couple of my spiritual teachers have said that God usually comes to you disguised as your life. This doesn’t mean that I must find a certain state of holiness to experience God, or that I must attain an altered prayer-state to commune with God, or that I must keep a set of guidelines to earn a glimpse of God. God is already here, already there—in me, around me, alive in the world, always and everywhere.
The Christian spiritual life invites me to open my eyes to what is already present, to attune my hearing to what is being spoken, and to pay attention to my life. After all, my life and your life are the primary contexts in which Christ is alive, present, and working in the world. This discipline of deepening attentiveness to your own ordinary life—where God is disguised—might lead to some life-giving discoveries as you work, study, rest, and carry on with life.