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By Eric A. Clayton

My girls have a lot of toys: seemingly everything, everywhere, in every corner of our house. Inevitably, the toy they need now, they have to play with in this moment, is never ready-to-hand. And so begins the quest for their stuffed dog or that one missing train or the princess doll that never had all her accessories anyway.

Therein lies this two-step dance. Or, at least, what I hope they take away from these side quests: “Ah-ha! The toy — it’s here! I’ve found it!” and also “Wow — there were toys all around me the whole time! Different, but just as fun.”

That second bit is always the trickier one.

We talk a lot about finding God in all things — and for good reason! God is to be found in everything, everywhere, at all times. The very fabric of creation pulses with the divine. Every inch of reality drips with grace.

But sometimes, I wonder, if we put too much emphasis on that first word: finding. We set out on scavenger hunts, on mythic quests, on road trips to find God — all the while knowing full well that God is right there, right here, delighting in us.

All the same, that quest for our hidden God is essential. God brings us out of ourselves, out of our comfort and complacency, and draws us deeper into God’s dream for our own lives and our shared world. That is necessarily a journey — even if only an interior one — and at the end of it we find our God of surprises.

We seek out that singular toy we desire in this moment all the while realizing that the house is full of toys and we have but to reach out and delight in one.

But here’s where that toy analogy breaks down, and I think this is the most important part. Not one of those toys seeks out my daughters. (I mean, not yet at least. Who knows what tomorrow’s Christmas list will bring?)

An essential spiritual insight of the whole Christian project is this: The God of the universe desires to enter into our lives in an intimate, eternal way. Our God is personal and deeply concerned with who and what and why we are. Our God enters into our stories to both find us and to remind us that God has been here all along.

God, too, does that two-step dance: seeking us out and burning ever more brightly already within us.

It’s a truth so simple, so foundational to our faith tradition, that I wonder if at times we hurry past it. We save the story for Christmas and then marvel at the baby in the manger while missing the daring claim that the God of the universe is interwoven into the fabric of our very selves.

And so, I wonder if we might look anew at that classic bit of Ignatian lore: finding God in all things. Because of course it’s true. But it means even more than we can imagine. It means that from all things God is calling to us. Out of all things, God yearns to meet us, to delight in us, to draw us deeper into God’s self, the very threads of creation, our unique, essential vocation.

How do we respond? How do we live our lives answering the call of our God who we hear in the chirping of the birds and the rustling of the leaves and the honking of traffic and the cries of the poor and the still silent sound of our own restless hearts?

This reflection is part of the award-winning weekly email series, “Now Discern This.” If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic ReporterU.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebasti