One afternoon, we discovered that he absolutely loves playing hide-and-seek. He loves it so much. You should see his face light up when I ask him if he wants to play – it is the purest and most joyous expression I have ever seen! I mean, he basically freaks out with excitement and he looks like he’s going to jump right out of his skin – it is hilarious! I ask him if he wants to come find me, or if he wants me to come find him first. Then, I remind him of the rules (“you have to close your eyes when you count to ten!”), and we go at it!
Sometimes, our game starts off with Blake first searching for me. I have to remember that he’s only three, so my hiding spots can’t be too difficult to uncover. My favorite one is behind the hunter green curtains in my living room right by the TV and sectional couch (where the other family members are typically hanging out). An adult could look over towards the sliding glass doors and see a Sameer-sized bulging outline in the drapery, or notice my toes peeking out from below, but Blake has to be guided a bit by others in the room who are not playing. And after a few persuasive suggestions to check the curtains, Blake finds me, and I let out a dramatic wail in defeat, and he bursts out in laughter, screams, and runs away from me as I reach to grab him, hoist him over my shoulder, and tickle him to pieces. I wish I didn’t have other responsibilities, because I seriously could play hide-and-seek all day with this wonderful boy bundle of cuteness.
After Blake and my extended family left at the end of their vacation to drive back to Virginia, Rachel and I were chatting about hide-and-seek. We reflected that our nephew definitely loved looking for me, and was thrilled when he succeeded in finding me. However, it was clear that he actually preferred to be the one who found a secret spot to hide, and then wait to be found by me. I mean, he was over-the-moon happy when I located him in his hiding spot – behind a door, under a blanket, between the wall and the couch. You would think that he would be bummed out because I had technically “won” at that point, and maybe even get upset and throw a fit because he didn’t win. But he wasn’t. He was beyond elated when I found him.
Rachel and I thought there may be something instructive in this, and we didn’t want to miss it. We wondered if maybe it was a picture of the heart of God, revealed by observing the heart of a child. And so we tried to put words to the glimpse we had been given. I remembered that “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Prov 25:2), and really wanted to dive in deep and learn from this. I think if we want to have a vibrant, living relationship with Him, we have to exert the effort to press in when something strikes us. Otherwise, we’ll keep missing what He wants to show us and teach us, and wonder why we never (seem to) hear from Him.
The first thing that came to mind was that everyone waits to be wanted, pursued, discovered. You very well may agree with me. Think about a girl who waits for a boy to come along to show her interest, care about what she hopes for and dreams about, and become captivated by all that makes her beautiful. Think about the athlete putting in hours and hours in the pool, or the gym, or on the track – hoping that a scout might come to one of his or her games and offer a scholarship or a shot in the big leagues.
I believe God is the same way. He waits to be wanted, pursued, discovered. This isn’t because He needs us to find Him; His emotional health is not dependent on our choices. Instead, He wants us to search for and chase after Him because He knows that there is no better discovery for us than Him. His presence, peace, and perfect love are the absolute best things we can find. The greatest treasure of all.
Second, God doesn’t make it an onerous burden for us to find Him. You don’t need to exhaust yourself looking high and low. He simply wants you to be “all in” in your search – looking with open eyes and an open heart. He isn’t hiding from His creation for the sake of hiding, just to put us through the paces. I think He’s just checking the state of your heart. Once He knows you are committed, He’s happy to reveal Himself to you with relative ease.
Imagine if I was half-heartedly looking for Blake. Instead of actively going around to each corner of each room searching, I decided to plop down on the couch and watch some football. Maybe every few minutes I might yell out something like “Here I come, Blake!” or “I’m getting closer!” just to make him believe I’m still in earnest pursuit. How awful would that be? It’s so disingenuous, so wrong to fool a kid like that.
Either I am in, or I am out – I can’t half-heartedly play hide-and-seek with my nephew, and I can’t half-heartedly seek out God and His ways and His love. He knows our intentions and motivations better than we ourselves do. I’ve experienced His love and insight in such powerful ways when I simply come to Him, knowing that nothing else can help me feel better, and that there are no answers to be found anywhere else.
The third thing that came to mind is that Blake wants the game to be about him, and not what he can do for me. He wants me to pursue him for him alone, and not to get him to take a selfie with me, or go to sleep early in exchange for the playtime together, or for any other reason where I’m using him to accomplish a goal of mine. It’s likely that as a three-year old, he’s not even thinking about that. You and I as adults, though, definitely do because we’ve been burned in this capacity at one time or another.
One of the saddest commentaries on the human condition is that we often want others not for who they are, but for what they can do for us – how they can make us feel, how they can improve our personal or professional life, how they can meet our needs. And to be honest, you and I often pursue God for the very same reasons, and not simply for Himself. I wish we would think a lot more about how this makes Him feel, and how this makes us seem – particularly because we’ve all been on the receiving end of this sort of exploitative and manipulative arrangement. It’s such a horrible feeling to realize that someone else is interested in a romantic or platonic relationship not because they love your heart and love spending time with you, but because they want something from you.
When I play hide-and-seek with Blake, he is the end goal. Finding him, making him shriek with glee, bringing the biggest smile to his face, and showing him how much I care about him – that is my motivation, and there is no other. This can be distilled even further: I do it because I love him, and this is the best way I know how to show him. Obviously, with Blake I know I am going to find him in short order. With God, sometimes it takes a while. But there is a point to the patience and perseverance required – it’s not random and arbitrary. He knows what He is doing:
- the search has a purpose in building your faith;
- the time it takes to search strips away the false pretenses and separates true seekers from the exploiters and manipulators; and,
- the reward – for the comparatively few who make it their mission – is incomparably grand.
This is His way, and this is His economy. He’s made it so plain to us: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jer 29:13). I mean, how much more clear do we need Him to be? When playing hide-and-seek, I was searching for Blake with all of my heart, with no ulterior motives and solely because I love him. Personally, I want to be pursued by others in the same way, and so do you. And so does God. Of anyone, He deserves that. This pure, passionate pursuit of Him is the deepest and highest way in which I can demonstrate my love – and so I must. Plus, as I mentioned, it is the best thing for us – the absolute best way we can spend our days and our lives. He receives glory (honor, renown, magnificence, beauty, distinction) from the hiding, and we can share in that glory through the seeking and finding. I am convinced that nothing else in our lives can match that – without inevitably falling short.