My father died 11 years ago last month. As I was thinking about him, I tried to think about the things we used to do together, the things he used to do for me, especially when I was just a kid. All the things I fondly remember him for.
Of course, it’s practically impossible to compile such a list since you’d have to remember nearly every day of your life for the first 20 years or so. That’s a list you can easily begin, but never end. You keep coming back to it and jotting down another memory.
But what stood out for me is that no one thing stood out for me. What I remember him for are all of the ordinary, day-to-day mundanities of family life. Just the many things he’d do for me as a boy, without question, all because that was something I needed or wanted. A life of given over to giving. A life of small sacrifices, day after day after day. To give and give until you finally give out.
At one level it’s all so commonplace, but looking back, that’s what I remember him for, what I thank him for, what I can never repay. And I don’t miss him for the “special” things he did–the birthday gifts and Christmas presents and trips abroad. No, I simply miss the opportunity to hear his voice once more, or see him smile once more, or put my hand in his.
Christian apologetics traditionally accentuates the miraculous dimension of the Christian faith while atheism, conversely, unloads its fire on the miraculous dimension of life. And, more recently, the “problem” of “divine hiddenness” is very much in vogue.
But if God is hidden, then he’s hiding in plain sight. Although the walk of faith is sometimes punctuated by striking turns of providence, God is generally present in our lives of his people the same way a devoted father is present in our lives. A quiet, unobtrusive presence that doesn’t call attention to itself, but puts itself at the disposal of others. That gets us through each day, a day at a time. That makes life bearable, and often enjoyable. A rose blooming in the desert.
That gives us just enough from day to day so that our separate days lengthen into years, and before we know it, God has led us by night from Egypt to the Canaan sunrise. We look back over rivers that seemed unfordable, valleys that seemed unbridgeable, and hills that seemed unsurmountable.