At the close of morning prayer I looked up to see the sun beaming through the window, splashing the African violets with brilliant light. Having tended these plants for years, I gazed on something not visible to me until then: the inner world of the thick leaves. They were fully transparent, allowing me to see the texture of veins and “marrow.” It seemed I had been given a special privilege to look inside the hidden life of the violet where photosynthesis takes place. Seeing the violet’s secret life, led me to become aware of the fact that most of what is in my life remains concealed, whether in regard to human beings, creatures or nature.
In Marrow, Elizabeth Lesser writes in a memoir about being a donor for her sister’s bone marrow transplant: “I think about hidden things. Hidden life under the sea, under the ground, under the skin. The buried marrow in my bones and the secret stories in my heart. What are we supposed to see and hear, show and tell? Are things hidden for our own good, or is the human journey about going into the shadows and searching for the deeper truths about ourselves and each other, about life itself?”
James Martin, S.J. also comments on “hiddenness” in his beautifully written book, My Life With the Saints. Martin ponders the hidden life of Jesus during his early years with St. Joseph. He then leads the reader to persons today who live similar lives, starting with the refugees he worked with in Kenya, and then people in other parts of the world: “The hidden life is shared by many people… The middle-aged unmarried woman who looks after her aged mother but whose sacrifices remain largely hidden from her neighbors. The loving parents of the autistic boy who will care for him for his entire life and whose heartaches remain unknown to their friends. The single mother in the inner city who works two jobs to provide an education for her children and whose tiring night shifts are still, after many years, a secret to her daytime coworkers.” James Martin concludes that there are “countless hidden lives of love and service of others. The day-to-day pouring out of oneself for God. It astonishes me how many of these people embrace their hidden lives of service with joy.”
You might look at your own life and notice the hidden part containing kindness and assistance you offer to others, that which most often goes unrecognized except by the recipients. How much of this is done with joy, instead of simple duty or responsibility? Look around. Consider that most of the people you meet have their own “hidden lives,” ones that contain sacrifice and love at a level probably not visible or acknowledged.
We live with a lot of mystery. In this day of Google with its instant knowledge there’s a tendency to dismiss what cannot be seen or proven, to ignore or forget that much of what exists within and around us has the power to influence us as much, or more, than what is observable. I find this reality of “hiddenness” to be a catalyst for humbleness, respect of others, and gratitude. Each day I want my inner eyes to be opened a little wider so my heart and mind will recognize the inherent goodness of others. When that happens I’ll have less judgment of those with differences, more appreciation for mystery, and live with a fuller sense of awe.
What a different world we could live in if we remembered how much is hidden from view.
Reproduced on the Marley Parish website by kind permission of Sister Joyce Rupp, osm.
Joyce Rupp/Servants of Mary, 1165 Office Park Rd., # 308, West Des Moines, IA 50265