A God Who Hides


A God Who Hides

In a meditation on this verse, Belden C. Lane remarks that he used to fret about how his children played hide-and-seek. His son would bellow out, “Ready!” when he had found a good hiding place, which of course instantly gave him away. Lane, the father, kept reviewing the point of the game – “You’re supposed to hide, not give your position away!” – until one day it dawned on him that from his son’s perspective he had missed the point of the game. The fun comes in being found, after all. Who wants to be left alone, undiscovered?

“God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding and so gives himself away,” said Meister Eckhart. Perhaps God also feels pleasure in being found? – Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God

For those of us who “get” the game hide-and-seek (anyone over the age of, say, four or five), it’s fairly straightforward. One person counts to 20 or 30 or 60; the others hide. The seeker calls out, “Ready or not, here I come!” and searches for the other players. The ease of the game is that the seeker knows exactly who is hiding, so of course knows when they have been found.

Not so with God, if He is the one being sought. We don’t know exactly what He looks like, and what is more, He reveals Himself in different ways to different seekers. Author Anne Lamott described her experience in coming to faith something like being followed by a stray kitten; once she let Him in, she knew she’d be stuck with Him. Francis Thompson described God as a relentless hound. Elijah, a prophet of the Old Testament, beheld Him revealed in fire and power on Mount Carmel … and as a still, small voice as he hid from an evil king and queen.

How do we win in such a game? How can we find God when He, as Philip Yancey suggests, first hides Himself, and then … when He is discovered, is rarely the same thing twice? A kitten here. A blood hound there. A wildfire here. A whisper there. Ten plagues upon Egypt here. Ten Commandments there.

An early follower of Jesus must have felt something similar, for in his frustration or confusion he said something to the effect of, “Just show us the Father … show us God … and it will be enough for us.” (John 14:8)

Jesus didn’t bring out the scrolls of prophet parchment or the stories of a people to whom God had revealed Himself as Yahweh or Jehovah. He simply said, “Have I been so long with you, and you still don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9-10)

So we play hide-and-seek. Yes, we do see God in different ways … depending on our early experiences of faith, our background, our treatment by our own parents and siblings. But more often than not, we’re the ones hiding, even while we’re seeking. Howard Macy notes of this hide-and-seek game, “while we have been pursuing God, he has been rushing toward us with reckless love, arms flung wide to hug us home.”

And that reckless love, those arms wide open, are revealed most fully in Jesus, in the cross, in what He did for us there. Dying to redeem all of mankind. To redeem every part of this broken world. To call us out of hiding and into the arms of grace.

How Often Do I Forgive?


A Prayer by Ken Gire

Lord,

How often do I forgive?

I’m asking not for an answer, only for an opportunity to come clean.

How often do I forgive?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart.”

How often do I forgive the gossiper in my life?

How often do I forgive the exaggerator? The out-and-out liar?

How often do I forgive the talker in my life? The interrupter?

The person who sits around like a bump on a log and says nothing?

How often do I forgive a boss who’s demeaning?

A coworker who’s competing for my job? …

“Try me and know my anxious thoughts.”

How long is my mental list of hurt feelings?

How far back does the account of “wrongs suffered” go?

“And see if there be any hurtful way in me.”

How many people do I mumble to myself about, mentally rehearsing the scene where I tell them off and expose them to the world?

How many times do I hear bad news about someone’s who’s hurt me, and I’m glad because, after all, they had it coming?

“And lead me in the everlasting way.”

Forgive me, O God, for all the times I haven’t forgiven. For all the times I’ve only partway forgiven, or grudgingly forgiven, or self-righteously forgiven. Lead me into a better way of living, which can only be found in a better way of forgiving. Help me to forgive others the way you have forgiven me.

Not for a moment but for a lifetime.

Not seven times … every time.

 

I admit there are times I like to hold on to hurt feelings, protecting them yet simultaneously wanting to boast of them as I would a bruise or cut as a child. “Look at the size of this wound! I am so brave. I put up with so much.”

The victim mindset is not only easy. It’s comfortable. It’s natural. It lifts me higher in my own estimation even while placing the blame of my hurt on the perpetrator. It excuses me of the need to forgive.

But it also consumes my heart from the inside out, and slowly puts my spirit to death by bitterness. At some point, by God’s grace, I understand that to stay alive, I must forgive. .. And if I am true to my heart and spirit and God, I will continue to forgive.

I will recognize the truth and power, the freedom, in the words of wisdom on forgiveness. When Jesus spoke of the vital necessity of forgiving. Not once. Or a few times. But 490. And if I’m still counting at 491, it means I’ve never truly forgiven.

More Dated Than Bell-Bottoms


John Piper

The gospel magnifies God and humbles man. To the world the gospel doesn’t look like power at all. It looks like weakness — asking people to be like children and telling them to depend on Jesus, instead of standing on their own two feet. But for those who believe, it is the power of God to give sinners everlasting glory. – John Piper

If I had to opt into choosing a “national fear” for the average American, I might venture to point out something controversial. It’s not a fear of terrorism or war. It’s not even a fear of losing independence or rights.

It’s a fear of looking weak. Appearing weak. Not just the nation at large, but us within it.

Looking weak is not the American way. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We forge our own path through life, and woe to any person who tries to stand in our way. We admire muscle, power, and a commanding presence.

We’re not afraid of anything … except, perhaps, people thinking we might be afraid of something. That might make us look weak.

I don’t like to appear weak. Or that I don’t have it all together. I don’t like to ask for help and rarely do, if I can help it. “You go on. I got this.” At work. At home. In life at large.

But we don’t “got it.” We might have things covered in the smaller matters, but where it really counts, we often need help. And where it counts the most, we need the most help.

A hospital patient in need of a blood transfusion can’t tell the surgeon, “No worries; just use my own blood. As a matter of fact, let me handle it. I’m good.”

In our popular culture, we’ve rendered the concept of sin more outdated than bell-bottoms, and just as unappealing. But anyone who has been the victim of abuse or misuse knows intrinsically there is something wrong with being treated unfairly. Someone pays the price for another’s dishonesty or theft or affair. The judicial system is alive and thriving because there are the wronged and the wrongdoers. There are, in bell-bottom-age terms and older, the sinned-against and the sinners. Which means that sin itself is also alive and thriving.

And where sin abounds, Paul writes, grace much more abounds … because we all need grace. We all need forgiveness. We can’t pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. We can’t give ourselves a blood transfusion. But that’s okay, because the Lamb of God already shed blood. From the foundations of the world, and in time and space on a Cross one long ago Friday.

Current culture cringes at the thought of looking weak and admires those who stand on their own two feet. But eternal culture, in the words of Jesus, welcomes those who are not afraid of becoming like children. And earth’s inheritance, He says, belongs to the meek. The lowly. Those who do not fear appearing weak. Those who know they are, so embrace the strength and power of Christ and His gospel.

It doesn’t appear strong, but only those who embrace the strength of weakness know how much courage it takes to depend fully on Christ for everything.

Do I know that courage? No. Not yet. Not fully. I would like to. Becoming like a child and admitting my fears seems a small price for the embrace of grace and an eternity in the presence of glory.

Even in the Valley


Most of us do not want valleys in our lives. We shrink from them with a sense of fear and foreboding. Yet in spite of our worst misgivings, God can bring great benefit and lasting benediction to others through those valleys. Let us not always try to avoid the dark things, the distressing days. They may well prove to be the way of greatest refreshment to ourselves and those around us. – Phillip Keller

You are passing through your valley. And no one knows. No one. Not your spouse. Nor your children. Not the smiling folks you mingle and joke with at work. Nor the fancy and shabby blend of men and women sitting in front of you and behind you at church on Sunday.

Walking through the valley is trying enough in itself. The scorching dryness bearing down, forcing your steps to be small, if you take steps forward at all. You try, because you know it’s your only way out. Moving forward. But every step sends pain shooting through your limbs and straight into your heart. The void of green and beauty weathers into your soul and you wonder if ever the world had color. The valley is trying.

But the aloneness is tragedy. No warming voice or soothing words casting a light of reason upon your questions. No steadying hand to catch you when you fall or hoist you to your tired feet again.

Your reasons for trudging the valley alone in spite of the world-full of people around you? Those reasons are yours alone. Just as the valley you walk in. No one could understand. I would be labeled. I could never find forgiveness. They don’t really care, otherwise someone would have noticed; would have said something.

There was one who walked the rugged path of a valley alone, in spite of the crowds that swarmed him so frequently. He was alone because there was something only he could do. A path only he could take. A cross only he could bear.

And because he did it, finished the task given him, accomplished the purpose set before him, there is something only he can promise.

He is with you. You are not alone. Or you do not have to be. His presence is more real, more present, than any other human. For he is the God-yet-man. The Son of Man who came to seek and save that which is lost. The Good Shepherd who seeks out the one that did not make it no matter if ninety-nine are safe in the fold.

He scours the desert and his footfalls sound against the caverns of every lonely, forsaken valley. His voice is true. His scar-rifted hand is steady. His heart that bled for you is pure. His promise: “I am with you always … I will never leave you nor forsake you … He that comes to me, I will in no way cast out.”

Even in the valley. Especially in the valley.

Living Inside Romans 8:28


If you live inside this massive promise, your life is more solid and stable than Mount Everest. Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside Romans 8:28 all is confusion and anxiety and fear and uncertainty. Outside this promise of all-encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol and numbing TV and dozens of futile diversions. … There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and anti-ballistic missiles. Outside are a thousand substitutes …

Once you walk through the door of love into the massive, unshakable structure of Romans 8:28 everything changes. There come into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply can’t be blown over any more. – John Piper

There is knowing a promise by the nuances and nature of the promise itself. The wording and the structure. The syntax and the history. The elements that comprise the promise and how far it goes.

Then there is knowing a promise by the nature of the promise-giver. In this case, the Promise-Keeper. Who not only promised that all things will work together for good, but that He will never leave or forsake those who call upon His name. There is knowing His nature. His history. The elements that comprise Him. Understanding how far He would go, has gone, to keep His promise.

To the Cross. Into the tomb. Descending to hell. Rising again one crimson dawn. Stretching His arms out and calling all who will to come to Him to find perfect peace, purpose, and rest in knowing Him.

There is knowing a promise and believing it in the mind. Then there is knowing the One who wrote the promise and wrote into the fabric of history Himself as the Keeper of all good promises, the assurance of His blood and sacrifice covering every sin and breathing new life into every sinner. Knowing Him in the mind, the heart, and the soul, and using those same elements in loving Him in return brings purpose and hope in a world slathered in anxiety and steeped in fear.

“All things work together for good” because “he is before all things and by him all things consist.”

The Author and Perfecter. Of faith. Of the story your life is writing. Of the story He is weaving with all things.

To Know that We Are Loved


Ken Gire quote

All of us at some time or another have wandered away from our best self, gotten disoriented, become lost, and found ourselves on the outside. Our greatest need as humans is to know that we are loved, even out there, regardless of how we got there. …

By leaving the host of heaven and coming to earth that one holy night, the Good Shepherd was saying to each of us: “You are loved. You are worthy of my pursuit. Worthy to be rescued. Worthy to be carried on my shoulders, to be rejoiced over all the way home.” – Ken Gire, “Relentless Pursuit”

Maybe we didn’t even feel that we wandered away. Or didn’t want to wander. Or didn’t realize that is what we had done with our decisions and steps. Life had gotten the better of us, as it does. With a life to earn and a family to deserve. With deadlines and emergencies and unexpected expenses. Expensive to the heart and soul often more than to the pocketbook or budget. And one day we wake up and wonder, “How did I get here?” Or maybe even, “Where is here?”

And we feel alone. At work. At the dinner table. In church. At a party. It doesn’t matter. There is the world and everyone in it. And there is you. Stuck on the outside, somehow. Unable to find your way back in. Unsure that inside is where you even want to be.

And so many questions filter through your mind. You are more concerned about whether they are even worth asking to determine whether they are ultimately answerable. Sometimes you wonder, even if you were found, would you want to be? Or would you want to remain hidden, where it’s safer? Where no light shines on the questions in your heart, illuminating the confusion of life and all that is in it.

And without realizing it, you are crying out into the cold and storm of the darkest night.

And before knowing it, you are picked up and wrapped in warmth against the bleeding cold.

You are told that you are loved.

That there is a place you can not only call home, but feel home. Know that you are home. In your heart, no matter where you find yourself. In the love of the one who sought you out, heard your silent call, swept you into His heart that bled for you. And loved you … loves you … just as you are.

Own Your Story


Brene Brown quotes on worth

“Our lives are a collection of stories — truths about who we are, what we believe, what we come from, how we struggle, and how we are strong. When we can let go of what people think, and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness — the feeling that we are enough just as we are, and that we are worthy of love and belonging. If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.” – Brene Brown

We all have our stories. And, perhaps even more so, we all have our stories of fearing our story. Of hiding from it. Of wishing that another story had been our own. Of cringing when we hear that Voice calling into the darkness of who we wish we were not but know that we are. The Voice that asks, “Where are you?”

How can we answer? How can we come out of hiding when we might know where we are, but do not know that ever-more-important thing … who we are? So we run from the majestic, persistent footfalls, foreseeing nothing but our doom. Nothing but a sorrowful ending, because we have fled not only from our stories, but from the Author of those stories. Author of the greatest, overarching story that reads like a tragedy, a comedy, and ultimately a fairy tale all wrapped into one happily-ever-after.

But at that moment when our lungs are ready to implode, and our hearts at the verge of exploding at the pain of wishing that we had somehow written another story with our lives, we stop. We turn. And we find Love. The Voice that had called out into the darkness of our lives, “Where are you?” is the arms that are open to take us into His heart and life.

And in His arms, and in the drenching, life-giving storm of His love, we see the story with new eyes. We see that on the edge and rippling beneath the surface of ever sorrow and every horrific turn, or ever decision that we thought took us further away, it only enabled the Author of Grace to write another line upon our lives.

“You are worthy.

You are called by name.

Your story was penned before you first drew breath.

You are loved.

Your story is beautiful.

For it is Mine.

As you are Mine.”