Among my family’s summer vacation plans is a trip to Disney World to celebrate our new college graduate. While it has been more than a decade since our last visit, I remember a certain amount of wearily standing in line for rides and food. Luckily, Disney makes waiting in line a bit more enjoyable by providing themed decor in their waiting areas. Visitors can also hunt for “hidden Mickeys,” places where the shape of Mickey Mouse (his head and ears, or his shoes) are carefully concealed in a mural painted onto a wall or in some subtle detail on an amusement-ride car. Once one begins to look for them, the number of places Mickey appears are numerous, but if one doesn’t look, they are likely to go unnoticed.
Ignatian spirituality emphasizes the concept of “finding God in all things.” This deeply incarnational way of understanding the world reminds us that Christ is found not only in the church and the sacraments, but also in more hidden places where we might not expect to find God. The Gospels show us a kind of hiddenness about Jesus at several significant points in his own life story—he is the child who has to be sought out and found in an unexpectedly poor place by both shepherds and wise men; the teen forgotten before being found in his “Father’s house;” the young man just beginning his ministry rejected by those in his hometown; and the resurrected Christ who at first is not recognized even by his friends and followers. Christ seeks us out, but we also have to respond in kind by actively seeking him in the many phases of our own lives, from new births to moments of loss and growth, and in diverse kinds of relationships with others.
We can seek and find Christ in a myriad of places: in the beauty of sunlight dancing on the waves of the ocean; in the face of a suffering person whom we are invited to accompany; in the delight of breaking bread with family, or with strangers who may one day become friends. Even moments that might otherwise seem dull—waiting in line, being stuck in traffic, or sitting at the airport—are places where the hidden Christ is present, awaiting our discovery. This past spring and early summer, I took up the practice of paying attention to the subtle changes in the details of the trees out the driver’s window as I waited in traffic: tiny buds that opened up into new leaves; the activity of squirrels; subtle changes in the shades of green that I had not previously noticed.
Christ is especially present in the face of other human beings. We find him in those who are loving toward us and in the deeper capacity for love hidden underneath another person’s anger or sadness. Even in the simplicity of our everyday acts of breathing, walking, listening, or eating, God is present. Christ is constantly available to us, but we have to make the effort to seek him in his hiddenness.
Where have you found the hidden Christ?