Last week I heard an endearing story. Our speaker’s grandchildren wanted to play hide-and-seek. So after Perry, the speaker, finished counting to ten with eyes covered he moved to the game’s key feature: “Ready or not, here I come!” We all laughed when he told the rest of the story: in an instant he heard a child’s voice call out, “Grandpa, I’m hiding over here!”
We also know the precursor game to hide-and-seek. It’s called peekaboo. We make eye contact with an infant and then hide our eyes briefly before reappearing with a call of “peekaboo.” The infant always smiles. And so does the adult!
So here’s a question: do we ever outgrow our appetite for peekaboo and hide-and-seek?
Think, for instance, about our social inclinations. We all have friends. We find others who share our interests and enjoy a good conversation. We might be part of a reading club, a group of gamers, a health club, a model railroad club, a travel group, and more.
But it can be complicated. As we mature we also need some relational boundaries. What if someone we don’t know tries to lock eyes with us: do we return the gaze? The book of Proverbs certainly votes against it! And we’re also finite. A dozen close friendships are about as many as most of us can handle at any stage in life.
But let’s shift categories. What about having a hide-and-seek bond with Jesus? In hard times do we try to find him? Do we invite him to find us when we feel distant from him? Do we want eye contact with him? Or not?
It’s a real question. Let’s use our experience of playing hide-and-seek to think about God’s love. From Adam’s fall until now there’s been a broken connection. Remember how Adam hid from God. Yet God found him. But did Adam want to be found? Was it just a game to him?
No. He was afraid of God—ashamed of his nakedness. Yet God covered him and spoke to him with both a rebuke and a promise. A rebuke for not listening—for not responding to him as God. In love God had opened his goodness to Adam; but Adam listened instead to his wife who, in turn, accepted the serpent’s skepticism about God’s motives. God also promised one to come—the woman’s seed—who would solve the problem of alienation.
And now we all share Adam’s heart from birth. We struggle with inadequacy, shame, and the fear of dying. Yet something in us knows we’re made for more than this. We all know a painful privation: the felt loss of God’s presence in us. Apart from Christ we looked in a mirror only to see a lonely soul looking back, held tight by spiritual death.
But all this changes when we see Christ looking in our direction—looking into our hearts, inviting us. But to what? The “what” we’re offered is access to the ultimate Relationship. We get to meet God, who is love. The Father, Son, and Spirit meant for us to know God’s relational goodness: to enjoy the glory of his love.
But Adam looked away. He closed his eyes to God and opened his eyes in a new direction—to gaze at his own image in the mirror called “freedom.” But his freedom proved to be enslavement to aloneness.
Life in God, by contrast, consists in union and communion. God exists in eternal Triune communion and it’s here that we discover Christ looking at us. And through him we get to be united to his Father, and then to become one with all who are in Christ.
Now, back to hide-and-seek. Does God ever hide from us? Not really! In Psalm 139—“where shall I flee from your presence”—we find just the opposite. But he does play peekaboo with us. As in the parables. Jesus offered parables as veiled stories. And he later repeated each of them with the veil lifted—with a point-by-point explanation.
Listen, then, to the Christ’s explanation of his spiritual hide-and-seek: “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Jesus next cited Isaiah’s warning—“For this people’s heart has grown dull”—and in his comment we see the problem. The listeners needed to wait long enough for Jesus to give his explanation. But most just walked away. They weren’t real seekers. The intriguing twinkle in Christ’s eye wasn’t inviting.
Who, then, sees Jesus as he looks in our direction? Listen to David tell his own story in Psalm 27. “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that I will seek after … to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. … You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your Face, LORD, do I seek.’”
My own conversion came when my heart heard Jesus say, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” I saw his eyes in that text and it made all the difference: “peekaboo!”