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.