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AfterWords | Child’s Play (September 25, 2022)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Lisa Leeper

Hopscotch. Tag.  Pin the tail on the donkey.  Hide and seek.

I’m both bemused and tickled that the same games I played as a child were played by my children, and are now, in turn, being played their children. It appears some games have generational staying power. Hide and seek is a favorite with our grands; they’ve progressed from ducking under tables or behind curtains, limbs protruding, to secreting themselves in nooks and crannies that challenge my seeking chops.  If I take too long, encouraging giggles begin to emerge from the kitchen cabinetry or other places into which they’ve managed to, oragami-like, fold themselves. Delighted laughter accompanies the eventual discovery.  Being found is the most fun part of the game.

In house church this past Sunday, we considered what might be the origin story of hide and seek. Genesis 3 tells the sad tale of God searching for his children after they’d doubted his good heart and experienced shame for the first time. “Where are you?” he plaintively asked, as Adam and Eve futilely tried to conceal both their location and desperation. We wondered, how was the experience of hearing God’s footsteps rustling through the grass different from the day before?

And what was going on in the heart of God as he called out?  

Jesus plainly tells us in Luke 15 how God feels about those who are lost and the lengths to which he’ll go to find us. There’s the story of the lost sheep:

“There once was a shepherd with a hundred lambs, but one of his lambs wandered away and was lost. So the shepherd left the ninety-nine lambs out in the open field and searched in the wilderness for that one lost lamb. He didn’t stop until he finally found it. With exuberant joy, he raised it up, placed it on his shoulders, and carried it back with cheerful delight! Returning home, he called all his friends and neighbors together and said, ‘Let’s have a party! Come and celebrate with me the return of my lost lamb. It wandered away, but I found it and brought it home.’” (Italics added.)

In the Alpharetta house church gathering, we shared a few stories about our own hide and seek games, from hearing a dad’s car door closing and running to be scooped up, to bowling badly and running to the restroom in tears. We acknowledged that we’ve all experienced the joy of being found by someone whose presence is eagerly anticipated, and we’ve all known the feeling of wanting to hide when we’ve messed up.

God, always with us, is nevertheless still asking, “Where are you?” How do we respond when we hear his call? Do we keenly look forward to sitting with him, talking with him, listening to him, sharing our deepest thoughts with him? Or do we choose to hide—perhaps through doom scrolling? Working overtime? An extra glass of wine or a candy bar? I’m raising my hand on both of those last options, depending on the day.

The house church Examen guide, handed out Sunday, details a simple practice that can help us answer the question, “Where are you?”As we quietly spend time with God, we can reflect on these questions, one at a time:

Lord, where am I, and what posture am I taking?
Lord, where am I, and what season am I in?
Lord, where am I, and what am I hiding behind?
Lord, where am I, and is there sin I need to acknowledge?
Lord, where are you working that I cannot see?

The invitation extended to us is to engage with the God who’s always looking for us and to enter with him into the place we find ourselves.

Pondering these questions with God isn’t child’s play. Yet, as we tap into the joy of being with God and his delight in us, could Examen become one of the best playdates ever? My grands never tire of being found. Perhaps we can tap into the exuberant spirit of children as we discover, with God, where we are, over and over and over again.

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