Hide-and-Seek

I had totally forgotten one of my favorite hiding places in the world when I was a child.  The other night, as I was ready to drift off to sleep, I suddenly had a memory of the place, and I wrote a note on my phone so I wouldn’t forget my secret hide-out once more.

I lived in a house of excellent hide-outs.

There was the cement storm shelter in our basement.  Until the other children realized it was there, it was an ideal hiding spot (but it only worked once).

There was a small, but very long closet (really, almost a corridor except it led nowhere), in a slight L-shape, in our basement.  I could hide in the “leg” of the L, where there were storage boxes, and be almost completely hidden ‘forever’ in my mind.

There was another room in our basement that I only vaguely remember; it seems to me perhaps the laundry machines were once in there (but as I think about it, I don’t really think so . . what was the purpose of that room?) and there was a mirror, but it was a surprise hiding spot as well.

There was the old hide-behind-the-chair.  And I had a 70’s-looking orange tweed swivel chair in the basement to hide behind.

Each place had a different feeling.  With the cement storm shelter, a feeling of safety in the quiet, cool cement walls, but a realization that if someone opened the door it was all over.  With the closet, a very deep, restful, snuggly feeling of hiding, of hiding where I could really possibly not be found.  In the spare room in our basement, a sense of quirkiness.  And in hiding-behind-the-chair, the thrill of risk.

But to feel the mystery and paradise of hiding, there was one place best, and it wasn’t downstairs at all.

It was upstairs.  Upstairs in my parent’s full-length wardrobe closet.

The closet seemed like a secret corridor when I was a child, it felt so long.  And the most wonderful part was my mother kept her Sunday clothes on the bottom rack.  Sweeping, soft, lithe, floor-touching dresses and skirts.  The bliss.

My father’s side had pants and shirts and suit jackets and ties.  That was harder to hide in.  But my mother’s side had long, luxurious, curtain-like clothes in beautiful, exotic colors.  And I could hide in them.

I remember friends (once they figured out this lair) tearing through hangers trying to find me (or another hider).  I don’t know how my mother and father’s wardrobe fared through all this upsetting interruption from collecting dust.  But I do know, since it was brought back into my mind the other night, a bit of how I felt in that closet.

I used to so love that closet, so much, that I would go in there even when I wasn’t playing hide-and-seek.  I would go in there and hide from what I didn’t want to take with me, and live in what to me was a paradise of possibility.

In my imagination (and because I’d seen a Reading Rainbow where LeVar Burton was teleported places by trying on different hats in a costume shop), I thought that if I touched the different dresses, I could be magically warped to another place.  I could be an adult, befitting that dress, somewhere far away, somewhere perfect.

I loved hiding.

When I’ve had something hit me hard in life, I haven’t been able to go back to my old hiding places.  No longer do I have a cool storm shelter where I think no bad force can penetrate.  No longer do I have a secret room by the stairwell where I can crouch behind boxes and remain hidden as long as I want (at least in my imagination).  And no longer do I have my parents’ closet, nor would it look so long and stupendous to me now.

But that doesn’t mean I never try to hide.

Occasionally, when I feel overloaded and distraught, I will go to a closet to sit in the dark with the door closed as much as possible.  But most of the time, I hide in different ways.  I try to hide my sins from God by not thinking about them, or not talking to Him about them.  I try to hide from my fears by distracting myself from them.  When I’m depressed, I’ve hidden from my depression by sleeping.  When I’ve been anxious, I’ve hidden from my anxiety by turning down social invitations.  When I’ve been hurt, I’ve hidden from my hurt by building up walls as preventative measures–and by barbing them with anger and bitterness.  And when I’ve been humiliated, I’ve hidden from that by trying to entertain myself enough to forget it for a while.

We play hide-and-stay-hiding, all of us, because there is a temporary relief in not being found.  It isn’t the peace we’re hoping for, but it’ll tide us over, or so we tell ourselves.  And while we hide, we can pretend that we are some place else.  Maybe we don’t pretend we can be magically transported to other places, but we do pretend we’re not hiding.

We’re masters at it.

And we pretend we’re not hurting.  We’re not angry.  We’re not bitter.  We haven’t sinned.  We’re not humiliated.  We’re not depressed.  We’re not irrational.  We’re not out of control.

I wrote a metaphor story a few years ago that paralleled how I felt like God had treated me as I lived so much of my time in my hiding places.

In the story, there was a character who felt so unworthy to be in God’s house, and so frightened, and at times so overwhelmed, that he felt he had to go and hide.  There was always a closet door conveniently left open a crack, a safe place he could go and hide.  If the closet hadn’t been there, he would have almost surely returned to Satan’s house to hide in a closet there.

What the character didn’t realize was that God had left the closet door open, that God had built this closet for him, fully aware of how skittish and easily overcome this character was.

It was a little autobiography on myself.  But it isn’t really just myself.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:2-8, NIV)

When their eyes were open, they saw that what they had been so excited about seeing was nothing but terror and humiliation.  They saw their sin.  They didn’t need to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil to taste goodness; goodness had already been revealed to them.  The only reason to eat of the tree–as Satan well knew–was to taste evil.  And where did that taste lead?  To hiding.  Straight to hiding.  Hiding from their nakedness; hiding from God.

(By the way, do you see the incredible grace of God that the tree was the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil?  Let’s always thank Him that the tree He used to test them was not the tree of only the knowledge evil or I think we would be as damned as Satan!)

Have you ever wondered why God gave Adam and Eve the trees to hide in?

God could have had the trees on a sensor to melt as soon as the fruit of the tree of good and evil was tasted.  All the leaves could have withered and dried up.  Adam and Eve could have been standing there, utterly naked, totally ashamed, with nowhere to hide.

Have you ever wondered why God gave them the trees to hide in?

The leaves could never be a covering for their sin, and I think God allowed them to realize that.  But why did He let them hide?  There isn’t a record that God found them.  Of course, He could have found them before a nanosecond was up.  But do you notice that He didn’t walk right over to their hiding place?  If I was God I might have tromped over and said, “You dummies, I’m God, I know where you are!”

Does God do that?  No.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (v. 9)

He lets them hide.  In fact, He allows Adam and Eve to believe that they are hiding from Him.  How extraordinary.  How remarkable.  Was it that He didn’t want them to run away?  That He didn’t want to frighten them to dust?

I don’t know.  But I do know that God used language to find Adam.

He doesn’t grab Adam out by the arm or yank him out by the hair.  He speaks to him and–wow, catch this!–Adam responds.

From Adam’s vantage point, what was he thinking?  Maybe he thought he had found the perfect hiding place.  Maybe he thought God would never find him.  I don’t know whether Adam understood God’s omnipresence.  Maybe Adam thought he’d eventually be found.  Or maybe there was something in God’s tone that made Adam want to be close to Him again.

Adam was fallen, but he did not eat from the tree of the knowledge of only evil.  If he had, he might have flaunted his sin before God, or he might have run from God in a blazing rebellion.  But he didn’t do either.  He–from his vantage point–chose to reveal himself to God.  He chose to give up his hiding place.  He chose to come out of hiding.

Every once of us, created in the image of God, has this very same ability.  Not by our might or majesty, but by the graciousness of God that He has not removed from us the knowledge of good, not removed the totality of being made in His image.  We are still in His image.  And we still know we want what is good.  But we also have a war of the opposite.  We are also now the captives of Satan.  And we also want what is evil.

If God hadn’t called to Adam, do you think he would have volunteered his location?  I don’t think so.  If God had gone in and seized Adam out by the shoulder, do you think Adam would have survived?  I can imagine how frightening it would be to be hiding and startled badly by a human.  But by God?  I’m not sure Adam would have thought there was any hope after that.  The saliva in his mouth might have turned to chalk.

But instead, in this beautiful and majestic picture, God stands close to Adam, calls to him, and waits for his choice.

God tells us that, at the end of this age, there will be people so scared of meeting God that they will want the mountains to fall on top of them.  They would do anything to hide from God.

We can’t hide from God forever.  He knows this, and we know this.

But instead of tearing us out of our hiding places right away, what does He do?

He gives us time.

The thousands of years that span between Adam’s day and today represent that time.  A time that continues to go until God decides that time is up.  And then He will pull out the fearful sinners from their hiding, and they will have to face Him.

But . . that is not the way God prefers.  If it was, we would see it in the account of how He treated Adam after Adam’s sin of eternal consequence.

Instead, we see God’s graciousness, in His waiting for Adam to come to Him.

And that’s not all.  We see that very same graciousness through time.

Romans 5:8 tells us,

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV)

While we were still sinners.

While we were still hiding.

Do you realize what that means?

God came to our favorite hiding place, and He stopped right in front of the entrance.  He saw us clearly; He saw all our sin; and we did not know it.

And, while we were still hiding, He made the manifestation of His forgiveness unmistakable through the Person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus called to us.  And He chose a tree we could hide under, a tree infinitely better than the grove where Adam and Eve hid in the Garden.  He chose the tree of His cross.

We in our self-delusional-righteousness came out of our hiding to crucify Him.  And then we went back into hiding in the denial of what we had done, and what He had just done for us.

He did not hide from the consequences of our sin.  He did not hide and we, in our hiding, could see it was all paid for.

And now?  He asks us to come out of hiding.  To commit to Him fully.  Not to hide away from Him, but to hide in Him.

Before we know God, we hide in our sin, hoping not to be found.  But do we realize, He has already found us?  That He has allowed us our hiding place to give us time to come from it?

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)

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