When my elementary sons came home from their weekend activity last month, their sister, mother, and I had a surprise game waiting for them—pitch black hide and seek. The seeker had a tiny flashlight, but the hiders had an entire house shrouded in darkness in which to disappear. We all took turns hiding and delighted in the few times when a seeker would pass right by a hider, oblivious to a human being cloaked mysteriously right before his or her eyes.
It’s somewhat fitting that “pitch black hide and seek” was the spontaneous game which kept us up long past bedtime on that dark, weekend evening in Kenya. God seems to be doing a lot of hiding from me these days.
The past year had been hard enough, as—on top of our normal school responsibilities at Rift Valley Academy—Heather developed an Advanced Placement history course with two fewer months of instruction time than American teachers possess (due to our year-round schedule) and I added a seminary course to my schedule. Sadly, the first thing to get bumped from our lives was time socializing with any friends and co-workers on campus. On top of that, our best friends with our mission agency have been enduring their own Job-like kind of life. His chronic, debilitating back pain and his wife and kids with one agonizing malady on top of another have been beating them down for almost two years. We spent little time with them the past year or so.
Next, our best friends on campus had to take an emergency trip to the US to attend to some family matters. While there, they found out that the wife has stage 2 breast cancer. Their future at RVA is uncertain as they undergo treatment in the US.
My dad had a major health crisis in December (a nearly total liver failure), only to find out that cancer was the culprit for the ailment. It was touch and go for us around the holidays as to whether I (or all of us) should fly back to the US from Kenya to be with my family. Once that health scare was behind us, we then dealt with the uncertainty of chemotherapy treatments and potential surgery for the next three months.
I lined up this litany of woe to illustrate how God has been hiding. Lots of suffering and lots of loneliness all around us, and not a lot of revelation or obvious purpose.
Our home assignment could not have come at a better time. The steady pressure of “cross-cultural living” isn’t a crushing burden anymore; it’s more of a thumb that just holds us and presses and doesn’t let up. We’re relieved to have that challenge lifted for the next four months. But it still seems like God is hiding.
The thought that keeps nagging me though is “If God is hiding, am I still seeking?” Hide and seek is a wonderful game—it’s exhilarating for the hider to exert the creativity and the stillness which goes with hiding and it’s equally exhilarating for the seeker to explore all the possible secret places and then to uncover the object of the search in victorious unveiling. But without both sides equally challenging the other, the games flops. Is there a worse feeling than to be hiding for minutes on end, only to have the seeker quit, to stop looking for the silent and stealthy object? Who wants to be un-sought?
I hope I can become a steadfast seeker again.
Reading through the Easter story in my Bible study this morning I sped through the Emmaus Road story, where, after spending an encouraging and enlightening few hours with a mysterious stranger, Luke reports in verses 30 and 31, “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized [Jesus], and he disappeared from their sight.”
Jesus died. Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus hid himself. Jesus reappeared. He’s always with us but rarely visible. Sometimes he surprises us with an undeniable presence; sometimes he is farther than the moon.
Hide and seek. Are you ready to play?