One of the favorite childhood games is hide-and-seek. One person is chosen to be “it,” and closes his eyes and counts off a specified time period. Meanwhile everyone else has to find a place to hide. Then “it” tries to find everyone, and the last person to reach a designated “base” without being tagged is the new “it.” My older brother was a master of this game. We played it at night in a large yard. He could even hide “in plain sight.” One time he found a slight depression in the ground and just lay there. We must have stepped on him several times (“we” being those that were found and tagged, who then joined in the search), and yet he made no sound. After everyone was clear of the area, he got up and ran safely to base.
Even the old game of “peek-a-boo” with a baby is a variation on this. Since a baby does not realize that just hiding your face does not mean you are no longer there, the peeking out from behind your hand is the same as “finding” you. Most babies will giggle with delight for a long time with a good game of peek-a-boo. Psychologists relate this to a failure to understand “object permanence,” the idea that just because you cannot see it, an object may still be there.
Sometimes we play these games with God. In our early stages it may be peek-a-boo. As we mature we may still play hide and seek with God.
Object permanence, as it applies to God. God is always there, wherever there may be. But we tend to think that when bad things happen or things don’t go our way, he must not be there. But he has not gone; he is just hiding behind his hands. We lose sight of him, and think he is gone. Like in the game, though, he is still there, wanting us to keep an eye on him.
“Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.” (1 Chron 16:11)
David says this seeking is not just a one-time thing. It is more than peek-a-boo with God. It is the more mature hide and seek. We know that God exists; we just have to find him in all of life’s events. It involves leaving the comfort of base and seeking him continually.
When playing hide and seek, the temptation is to stay at the base and wait for people to get tired of hiding and figure they can try to make base before being caught. Most players make a rule that after counting, “it” must actually leave base and seek the other players. This involves a little risk. Suppose you go the wrong way and somebody sneaks in behind you. Suppose one player is hiding within stepping distance of base so he can call “free” as soon as the counting is done. We cannot stay where we are comfortable and expect to win fairly. It also makes for a long and boring game. As long as “it” remains at home, nobody will come out of hiding.
God is waiting for us to find him. He will not, however, force himself on us. He will not approach base unless we actively look for him.
God calls us to seek him; and sometimes that means we will be a little uncomfortable. We may have to give something up that we don’t want to. We may have to learn to do something we thought we would never do. We will have to leave our zone of safety. If we do that, though, we can find God. He is waiting for us; he is not going to just run to base and hope to get caught.
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; hat they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)
He is not far. He is not hard to find. He is even hiding in plain sight, in the light. The thing is, God wants to be found. In this it is not like hide and seek. He is not trying to get safely to base to avoid being caught. God want to lose, so that you can win. The good thing is that if he is found, he becomes “it.” All the problems of the game fall on him. But that is the way he likes it.