[Originally published as Hidden in Plain Sight]
March 13, 2019 – An American Bittern camouflaged in marsh grasses in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia; Stephen C Foster State Park.
The American bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus, is a species of wading bird in the heron family. It is a well-camouflaged, solitary brown bird that unobtrusively inhabits marshes and the coarse vegetation at the edge of lakes and ponds.
Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. Romans 1:20, The Living Bible
My daughter and I were only ten minutes into a four-day canoe trip through the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and already we had missed something. As we were paddling up the channel to Billy’s Lake from the Stephen C. Foster State Park boat ramp, we pulled to the side to let a tourist-laden pontoon boat pass by. As they went by, the naturalist on board pointed out an American Bittern camouflaged in the marsh grasses. We had paddled right past it, hidden in plain sight!
But we can’t be blamed. Even one prominent ornithology website says, “You’ll need sharp eyes to catch sight of an American Bittern. This streaky, brown and buff heron can materialize among the reeds, and disappear as quickly, especially when striking a concealment pose with neck stretched and bill pointed skyward.” With his bill pointed upward, he blends in perfectly with the tall brown grasses that line the water’s edge. Again, perfectly hidden in plain sight.
I began to remember that same “hidden-in-plain-sight” feeling just after surrendering my life to Jesus Christ while in college. As Christ continued to reveal Himself to me in those first days of salvation, I was mesmerized by the fact that the truth of the gospel had been there all along, right in front of my nose, but I never saw it.
And over the years, as my love of the outdoors and my study of wildlife continued, the evidence of God’s hand as Creator became more and more obvious: overwhelming evidence of design, the complexity of biology, genetic programming within animals, the beauty found in nature… all things that point to a Designer. And they were all right there all along, hidden in plain sight.
But why don’t we see them?
In part, we are blinded by an outside force. The Bible states that, “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). And we are also blinded by our own internal biases against the Bible that cause us not to see the evidence of God in creation. When speaking of the past creation and future destruction of this world, Peter wrote, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” (2 Peter 3:5).
Even though my daughter and I paddled right by that bittern and didn’t recognize his presence, he was still there. He was just hidden in plain sight and merely needed to be pointed out to us. For twenty years, I paddled right through life not noticing Christ. But when someone pointed Him out on December 1, 1993, I realized He was there all along, hidden in plain sight and the overwhelming evidence became more and more obvious.