Issue 98 / March - April 2014
Why Is God Invisible?
When a father's inquisitive daughter asks him, "Why he is God invisible?" he thinks he's getting off with an easy question. But the answer is far more complex, and wise, than he could have imagined.
Having an adolescent at home is a challenge, but answering their questions without triggering other question is a totally different one. And I should know this, because what else can you expect from the curious daughter of a researcher-father? Almost every day, she unloads a question on me, and the rest of my day is buried into deep thoughts over the answer.
Well, this time, I thought her question was an easy one. She asked, "Dad, why is God invisible?" Wow, that was easy. I felt like a child who knows the answer to the question the teacher asked:
"Our eyes are not capable of seeing Him. There are other things, too, that are invisible for us; like love or intelligence." That was it. I was smiling in celebration of my effortless success. But my daughter, she wasn't smiling:
"I didn't ask why we can't see Him. I said why is He invisible; that is why did He choose to be invisible to us?"
Good grief! How in the world should I know? I just tried to save the moment by giving the most straight forward answer: "Well, this life is an examination for humans. God invites us to find Him, and choose to submit to Him without seeing. That's the rule of the game, or the challenge of the exam."
She didn't look satisfied with what I said. After a few seconds of silence, she blurted out: "Ok, it is part of what I am looking for, but not exactly."
"If you can define what you are after, we can search for it, you know."
"Dad! I remember you telling me that you can ask the perfect question only if, and when, you know the answer. If I don't know the answer, how can I perfectly ask about it?"
Right there, I was shot with my own gun. I had used those words a few times to escape a mental fight or to avoid getting caught with an insufficient explanation. But, being daddy's girl, she picked it up too quickly and she was expecting me to figure out what in her mind without her telling me. So this was something I was used to. All I needed was to focus: "Why is God invisible? Why did He choose to be invisible?"
Being invisible while being there... Things are better understood when juxtaposed with their opposites. So, I started thinking about being visible but not being there. This sounded like the people who shake hands with you while talking to somebody else, or those who can't help looking at a computer or cell phone screen while talking with you. Then I remembered the cliche father depiction in the movies: a person who exists but no more - and the rest of the movie is focused on filling that void from lack of a father's love! I realized that my brainstorm was taking me far far away... But the concept of parenthood? Maybe there was help in it.
Being good parents... I recalled the examples in the books and seminars about parenting. "Helicopter" parents would help their child in everything to the point that they would not let the child enjoy the feeling of success. Such kids would have difficulty in developing self confidence and entrepreneurship. "Absentee parents," on the other hand, would not bother themselves, even if their kids were crushed under incessant failure. Such kids would have difficulty in developing trust and establishing long-term commitment. But what about these musings? Were they of help to probe into my daughter's curious mind?
I remembered that parents were extremely important because the relationship between them and the child was the framework for the relationship between the individual and God. And conversely, God's lordship was a model for parenting. So, if God chose to be invisible, was it a lesson for me as a parent?
For example, He was invisible, but He was not absent. People discovered God best when they were in their most desperate situations. And in normal times, He was enabling us to enjoy success and self-confidence by helping and guiding us in our actions without overriding our egos. Had this help and guidance been substituted by His infinite Will and Power always, we could not have controlled our actions, and so, we could not have developed even the notion of self.
I felt like I found a great gift for my daughter. But was this enough? Was this what she was looking for? Or part of it? Who knows? Perhaps, I should keep thinking. After all, I was her hero; I should not ruin her dreams.
I remembered how I was disappointed by some of my superheroes. In my childhood, superheroes were depicted as people who were there only in times of danger and emergencies. So, they were never put into contexts that would reveal a lack of character or a need to be cared for. But in recent times, superheroes were likely to be depicted with defects in their personalities. Even sometimes, they were shown trying to cover up those defects with their powers, making the picture even worse.
I did not want to disappoint my daughter. But as much as I was her hero, I was a human: a regular human with insufficiencies and mistakes. And, so was she. In any case, I didn't want to be remembered through my negatives. Wasn't I educated not to hit people in the face with their mistakes - but on the contrary, to cover them, if possible? Right at that moment, I saw that being invisible was the perfect way God did this for us. If He revealed His presence every time we did something wrong, how shameful would that be?
But, whether covering a flaw or doing a favor, what crowned those good deeds was when the person who committed them didn't expect anything back. The best help was described as "done by the right hand without the left hand being aware of it." Doing favors while being invisible like angels was the ideal. So, the other person only knows that they have been covered, and that's it. They can't see anyone who is going to ask for a return by reminding them of the favor; they can't remember a face whose appearance would rekindle the regrets of the past mistakes. Their pride is not wounded, and their dignity is intact. They are left with a gratitude that can only be paid forward by doing the same for others. I thought, in this context, being invisible was another way by which God taught us benevolence and magnanimity by example.
Having gone through all these thoughts, I was guessing that I had found enough answers for my daughter. But since I had not figured out a way to deliver those answers without being visible, I was expecting her to have enough of me after a minute, and without much listening, to produce another question. I was wrong, and I was correct. She listened to me completely and attentively. Then she added:
"Today, during the exam, the teacher stood beside me for a minute. You cannot imagine what a stressful minute it was. Not that I was doing anything wrong, but seeing her made me so nervous. I remembered that you had told me that we were in an exam in this life. Then it dawned upon me that God being invisible was not only a part of the exam, but also a part of the help to success."
This time, we both smiled... until she reloaded me with:
"Then why did God give the need for self-confidence and success, if they potentially lead to arrogance?"