He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth… so that people might seek God—even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being,” as even some of your poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” —Acts 17.26-27
While I was on my solo camping trip last week, I read a number of books—including “The Spiritual Journey of a Misfit” by Francis Dorff. He was a priest and professor of theology and philosophy. My favorite chapter in his book was the one entitled “Playing Hide-and-Seek with God.” Here are some lines from that chapter…
After spending three-quarters of a century seeking God, I’m beginning to think that God loves to play hide-and-seek. I’m also beginning to think that God’s very good at it.
I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. I know that’s how long I’ve been seeking God, but I have no idea how long God has been playing hide-and-seek. If it’s even half as long as I suspect, it makes me feel as though I haven’t even begun to play and that the chances of God not finding me are pretty thin.
In the beginning, God wasn’t into hiding at all. As the day came to an end, God used to take a walk in the garden with us right out in the open. It was my good friends Eve and Adam who really invented hide-and-seek. As far as I know, they are the first ones to hide from God because they discovered they didn’t have anything to wear.
As a little child, not having anything to wear never seemed to bother me. I don’t think it ever really bothered God, either. It seems to me that, deep down, God doesn’t have a thing to wear anyway and could care less.
So it seems that Eve and Adam invented the game of hide-and-seek all by themselves when they started building a wardrobe so they could hide themselves from God and from one another. It’s hard to tell where they got this idea. Somewhere along the line they must have looked at one another standing there naked and, all of the sudden, decided that they were too exposed.
God’s reaction to this seems to have been that three can play this game. And when God starts building a wardrobe, look out! It’s really impressive. It’s beyond anything I can imagine. I know that no wardrobe I’ve ever built even comes close to it. That doesn’t keep me from building a wardrobe, though. I wonder if Eve and Adam had any idea what they started by thinking that they were unfit to be seen.
I’ve learned an awful lot over the years by playing hide-and-seek with God. For one thing, I’ve learned that when God calls out, “Francis, where are you? Where are you?” God’s not trying to find out where I am. God knows exactly where I am. For God, this whole thing’s just a game. As God looks at it, all my hideouts are transparent. So is my whole wardrobe. So am I, for that matter. I sometimes wonder why I still insist on getting all dressed up.
So, right from the start, God and I are playing hide-and-seek on a very uneven playing field. I can get so wrapped up in the game, though, that I forget this from time to time. Then something always happens to remind me of how uneven the playing field really is.
So, if God already knows where I am, why does God keep calling out, “Francis, where are you? Where are you?” I had to keep playing hide-and-seek for a long time before I discovered that God keeps calling out like this to remind me that this is just a game we’re playing and that I’ve hidden myself so well that I’ve forgotten where I am. When I finally get the message, God can take a break. Then, without hardly realizing it, I take over asking myself, “Francis, where are you? Where are you?”
That’s another thing God is very good at—leaving haunting questions lying around.
By passing this “Where are you?” melody on to me, God subtly changes the name of the game. Instead of hiding, I now begin seeking where I’m hiding so that I can tell myself and God where I am. This can get very complicated. I can never do it without taking off at least one layer of what I’ve been hiding under. I often do this with great reluctance and very slowly so that I can admire the amount of work I put into weaving or borrowing this particular garment. It’s been part of the very imaginative wardrobe that I’ve been painstakingly creating for a long time. But God’s disrobing question makes this particular garment transparent to me now, so why should I keep wearing it? So I take it off and let it go and, at least for the time being, discover where I’ve been hiding.
Over time, playing hide-and-seek with God has also taught me that, whether I like it or not, I gravitate toward the layered look in life. Dressing up that way gives me a lot of hiding places to fall back on even if I have to let one or two of them go from time to time. I know I like the layered look but it always surprises me how many layers I’m wearing and how extensive my self-made wardrobe actually is. It even begins to feel embarrassing. Fashion is one thing, but this is something else.
I had to do an awful lot more seeking to discover just how good God really is at hiding. God’s a real master at it. I started to realize this when I began to notice the difference between how God hides and how I hide. I hide behind things and persons and under tightly-knit layers of rational and emotional clothing. And I hide in the most remote and secret places I can find.
I find God doesn’t hide in this way at all. Unlike me, God doesn’t hide behind and under things and persons. God hides within and beyond things and persons.
I haven’t taken the full inventory yet, but after all my seeking, I’m beginning to find God hiding within and beyond every single thing and every single person in all of creation—including me! I’m talking about a real pro at hiding!
Also, unlike me, God doesn’t hide in the most remote and secret places. I keep finding God hiding in places that are so easy for me to overlook simply because they’re so obvious. They’re right under my nose.
That’s the way God keeps fooling me—by hiding out in plain sight.
That’s the last place I’d think of looking. You’d think that, after a while, I’d catch on to this, but I don’t. I still go around looking for God in the most remote and secret places. It isn’t as though I haven’t heard about God’s strange way of hiding before:
…though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being,” as even some of your poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.”
But that doesn’t seem to make any difference. It’s one thing for me to hear about God’s unbelievably obvious hiding places, and it’s something else entirely for me personally to discover that for myself, one person and one thing at a time.
Discovering this teaches me to honor every aspect of my life and to treat it with mindful reverence because God may be hiding there.
When I actually find God hiding right there in the middle of my own experience I feel that, at long last, I’m beginning to get the hang of what playing hide-and-seek with God is all about.
I begin finding God everywhere, in every person and every thing. This greatly expands the playing field of my game of hide-and-seek with God. There is no limit to this playing field—God’s hiding all over the place, and even in no place at all.
Another thing that I’m seeing more clearly than ever before is that, at least as far as I’m concerned, God’s favorite hiding place is me.
While I’ve been running around for so long trying to find God, all the time God has been hiding within me and quietly smiling at me. This is the most unlikely hiding place; I’ve been overlooking it all along. It’s so close to me that I can’t even see it. Talk about hiding right under my nose!
I’m finally beginning to discover my own favorite hiding place—it’s God.