(Post #1 in a 4-part series collaboration)
By Rick Howell (bio below)
Although it has been over 45 years, I can still remember the experience just like it was yesterday. It is even more shocking that I remember because it happened in the context of a relatively frequent occurrence. My friends and I were in a rousing game of hide and seek, which we played at least weekly. This particular moment, however, stands out because of the intensity of the feelings it evoked and the emotional dilemma it created. I was hiding. In fact, I was hiding in a perfect spot. When I identified it, I squealed inside because I knew I would never be found. This was the perfect hiding place. As I listened to the seeker count down to “0” and heard the familiar words, “Ready or not, here I come,” I was beside myself with anticipation. She was not going to find me! As time passed, my assessment that this was a great hiding space was confirmed. I heard friend after friend discovered, followed by the race to home. As I remained hidden, my satisfaction grew. As more time passed, however, I began to wonder what happens if I don’t get found. And then what was pure joy for so long was no longer fun. I wanted to be found, and I wanted to shout with excitement as I raced back home. Never being found was not all it’s cracked up to be. So, I moved from a great hiding space to a space I knew would allow me to be found.
Unfortunately, more often than I want to admit, my Christian walk has been a similar experience. The idea of being known by God is disturbing. Being fully known, my struggles, my doubts, my insecurities, my failures, my inner most thoughts cannot coexist with God loving me. Therefore, I hide. Hiding from God is not easy. I have to work hard at it…at least to preserve my illusion of hiding. Much like the child who hides her face and believes therefore that she is unseen, I live as if I can control what parts of me God sees and thereby ensure God loves me…or so I tell myself. But as in the hide and seek game, hiding becomes undesirable. Disconnection from God results in an unbearable loneliness. My need to be truly loved by God is stronger than my need to hide from God. In desperation I remind myself of the truth my Sunday School teachers taught me: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I embrace my pastor’s proclamation, “There is nothing that I could do to cause God to love me less.” Fortunately, my difficulty believing this truth does not make it less true. As I embrace the scriptural promise conveyed by the words from the familiar chorus, I Am Loved, “The one who know me best loves me most,” hide and seek returns to being just a fun kid’s game.
With this assurance, I can take more risks by being vulnerable in relationships with whom I am pursuing more depth and authenticity. I remember recently sharing, with two dear friends of mine, some thoughts and reactions I had had during a sermon for which I was not proud but which I did want to explore with them. When they extended grace and patience to me rather than the expected condemnation, I believed I had experienced in the flesh the truth of which I share today. I allowed them to know me more fully and they chose to love me more fully. What a beautiful combination. Thanks be to God!
Blogger Bio: Rick Howell has served as the Executive Director of Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast for 20 years. Rick, a Tampa native, holds degrees from Stetson University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Debbie live in West Bradenton. They have two adult children, Breanna and Ethan.