How often do we attempt to hide parts of ourselves from God, using flimsy disguises for our sin? When He woke her up one morning from a sound sleep, Ronda Perry of St. Peter’s Church learned the joy of being found.
I am sound asleep. Then at once I am awake, and although my eyes are still closed, there is a single phrase that passes through my brain over and over again. Frustrated that once again my brain is not cooperating with my body, nor the hour, I snuggle down deeper in my bed, eyes still shut, but sleep does not return. Instead, I only hear a silly, stupid phrase: “Ollie ollie oxen free!”
I have not heard that phrase since my last game of Hide and Seek, decades ago. I wasn’t even dreaming of anything, so it had no right to invade my thoughts. I was sleeping! It’s usually at this point in my selfish thought pattern that it occurs to me that maybe God is trying to talk to me. Maybe, just maybe, he has chosen the quietness of the very early morning when it is actually possible to get my attention to speak to me.
Clearly, this is what is going on. But “ollie ollie oxen free”? Really God? What does THAT mean? His reply is predictable. “I’m glad you asked. Now get up, put on some warm socks, put some water in the kettle, and open your Bible.” And so with my cup of tea and warm feet, I open my Bible and read Jeremiah 29:12-14a.
Image credit: Disciplebuilding.org
It’s really my own fault. I’ve been telling Him for months now that I want more of Him. I want to know Him more, know His Word more, know Him in new ways I’ve yet to even imagine. Because of this prayer, I’ve been diving into more serious study. And when I pray, I’m trying not to hog all the talking but spend some time quietly listening, straining to hear His voice. Incidentally, it’s a different voice than the one that wakes me up in the middle of the night. This one is much softer. There is a coyness to it. Alluring and intimate.
The last time I played Hide and Seek was when my children were little. Of course, as an adult, it was more for them than me. Most of the time, as soon as I yelled, “Ready or not, here I come!” one of them would yell back from the next room, “I’m in here!” Their hiding places were never very good: behind a curtain with half their legs showing below, under the kitchen table with chairs pushed apart where they failed to cover their tracks. But it was always the same. Even though I knew where they were the whole time, they believed they were really hiding from me. After I had found them, it was their turn to be “It.”
With their tiny faces pressed into the corner, I could hear the muffled sounds of counting as I scurried to hide. But the strategy changed. As the parent, I WANTED to be found! I had to choose a place that would require some effort but not so much that they gave up. I saw them looking in the same places they hid, thinking I would be there. I heard their sweet voices calling for me. And then came the best part—when I’d given them a glimpse of me or made an intentional sound, and they actually did find me. We’d all squeal with delight, our expressions sheer joy. And then I got to exclaim, “You found me!”
I hadn’t realized it, but I have been playing Hide and Seek with God. Only as an adult, my hiding places are much better. I truly believe I can hide my sin from God. Well, of course I don’t call it sin; that’s a dead giveaway. Instead, I hide my anger and resentment behind a smiling, patient face. I’m sure I’m hiding my pride around the corner in false humility. And there is no way God would find my refusal to go to Him to deal with life’s pain when I’ve cleverly hid it in that extra glass of wine. Yep! No way. Until that early morning wake-up call when I hear my Dad’s voice: “Ollie ollie oxen free!” It’s safe to come out now. You don’t have to hide anymore. You can run back to home base without fear or rejection. No more pretending, no more lies, only grace.
Now it’s my turn to be “It.” I too see a glimpse of Him or hear a gentle word, and then I actually do find Him. We both squeal with delight, our expressions sheer joy. And then He exclaims, “You found me!”
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:12-14a
Ronda Perry lives in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, with her husband and two adult children while learning how to converge everyday life with an intimate God. She serves at St. Peter’s Church and is pursuing her M.Div at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Follow her blog.