Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Does God Play Hide and Seek?

My two-year-old daughter loves to play hide and seek.  Every so often we'll turn all but one of the lights off downstairs.  Hannah will count to ten (inevitably skipping the number seven as she always does when she counts) and I'll go hide in a closet or behind the bathroom door or halfway down the basement steps.  Then I listen for those little footsteps and wait for those little eyes to peek around the corner looking for me. There aren't many things that make Hannah jump, squeal, and giggle all at the same time like me jumping out and saying "Boo!" when she's found me.  These giggles are then immediately followed by "Again!" and we start the whole process over again or switch places.  

"Where is God?"  "Why can't I see him?"  Perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions of God is why he doesn't make himself more readily available to us.  If God is so loving and really wants to be in relationships with us, then why doesn't he come out in plain sight where we can all see him?  Even in the Psalm I am preaching from this week, there is all kinds of talk about seeking God as if God were hidden and difficult to find.   The Psalmist is commanded to seek God and the Psalmist says he will seek God but asks God not to hide his face.  Does God really hide himself from us?  Is this all just a game to God?

The games of hide and seek that we play with Hannah have sort of evolved over time.  It didn't take Hannah long to figure out that the fun part is the finding and being found.  She also knows that one of my most common hiding places is the closet in her playroom.  So, many times when she has gotten bored with a toy in her playroom she has stood up and said "Hide dada!" and usually before I can do anything she is already hiding in the closet.  She then proceeds to open the door and say "Boo!".  She'll do this over and over again, sometimes even pointing to the closet before she re-enters and saying "hide" just in case I hadn't yet picked up on the fact that she was hiding in the closet.  All the while it doesn't at all seem to bother her that her "hiding" doesn't really conceal her location from me.  For her, the only point in hiding is the joy of being found.  

It's not often that I compare God to a toddler.  Usually, in these kinds of analogies it is we who are the children and God who is the loving father.  But I have to wonder if God doesn't do much the same thing as my daughter.  To be sure, God is often not as tangible and immediately available as we might like for God to be.  You can't order up a little bit of God at the McPrayer drive-thru.  But neither does it take a Master of Divinity Detectives degree to track down God.  Instead, it seems that God hides behind the same doors over and over again.  This is because God doesn't hide so as to remain hidden.  God hides because He wants us to seek him.  He wants us to seek him in those places where we've found him over and over again; Scripture, Communion, the Church...

The Psalmist says "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:  That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple."  The Lord commands the Psalmist to seek Him but the Psalmist already knows where to look because he has found God there many times before.  God calls us to seek Him not because He is difficult to find but because He wants us to find Him. 

In fact, the final verse of this Psalm might be the most telling of all.  "Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait for the Lord.'  After all this talk of seeking, now the Psalmist says "wait".  It's as if after having sought after God, the game of hide and seek has now been reversed and God is seeking us, which is, of course, also true.  Once we've searched and sought after God and finally find Him then we realize that He was actually seeking us all along.  

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