I grew up in what seemed like an enormous mansion in North London during the 1950s and 60s. In fact, our house, or my grandparents’ to be exact, was a very spacious Victorian villa in Tufnell Park Road, which runs along the line of an old Roman Road. Four floors with large basement, lots of rooms, cupboards and hiding places rendered it perfect for playing a favourite game of ‘hide and seek’.
Some of my most treasured memories are from that time: my then best friend living next door and school holidays stretching boundlessly into a future I didn’t have to give any concern to. One grey cloud floats in the rose-tinted recollections of an otherwise clear blue vista. My cousin Bill (each story has a villain) delightedly used every opportunity to incarcerate his brother or me in the dark bathroom cupboard leading up to the first floor landing. Pushing either one of us who wasn’t the ‘seeker’ in first, disturbing the myriad spiders with his trusty torch prior to shutting the door and engaging the catch opened only from the outside, was his raison d’être. Screaming for help and release wasn’t the obvious option, as we sensed the noise could send our eight legged co-inhabitants into a flurry of activity that we could not see and only imagine.
It’s interesting how some games survive the passage of time, trends, geographical locations and language barriers. I fondly entertain a thought that Monopoly, along with Hide and Seek, will live on into eternity. I wonder how much it will cost to put hotels on Saturn, or to own utilities along the path of the Milky Way. In any event, I want to be the Old Boot or the Top Hat – call me a creature of habit. And of course, we’ll all have a ‘get out of jail free’ card, won’t we? And so many places to hide!
During our son’s formative years, we lived in a similar, though smaller version of my childhood abode, and Hide and Seek was always the order of the day with his friends, and in their absence with his dad. Mark was always a sucker for a quick round of hiding and seeking. Especially the obligatory hug and kiss upon discovery of the slippery evader. (Not sure that’s in the official rules.)
God’s been playing a game of Hide and Seek with me over the past couple of months. On a visual level, He’s been showing me breathtaking glimpses, viewed through a velux window during night visits to our bathroom. Countless twinkling stars have rendered me gasping and loudly vocalising ‘wow, oh wow!’, much to the consternation of Mark, who would otherwise continue in uninterrupted slumber. He is convinced I am able to talk all day and now all night! However, the celestial spectacle is more than worth the trip and broken sleep. The clarity of Orion’s constellation is stunning enough to the naked eye – goodness knows what I would be tempted to utter if I had access to a telescope.
On a deeper level, God has been showing me how a blanket of cloud cover can obliterate any view of what is really the bigger picture. On nights when I look up and see merely a thick woolly grey above my minute space on this miniscule planet, I cannot help but be reminded of the enormity of God and the seeming insignificance of us, His creation. Yet that is exactly the paradox: we are like grains of sand on the seashore. Yet He has us engraved on the palm of His hand and CARES about every single infinitesimal thing in our everyday lives. To the point of ridiculous detail. For you. For me.
I was discussing with a friend last week how we are often misled by distortions of truth. One example, is a popular phrase – the devil is in the detail. No he isn’t. The truth, and original saying is, God is in the detail, the phrase has been hijacked and distorted so our focus is taken off the Creator of all things and onto something that attempts to lead us away from seeking only Him. To play another game – a tarnished, poor reflection of the original that promises great rewards and delivers nothing at the finish line.
At a recent retreat, I was selected and encouraged in something very close to my heart, without anyone, except God that is, even knowing it was in my thoughts. Just for me. To remind me that He is the God of everything in this universe – what little we know and everything we don’t. In that affirmation, I experienced a healing of acceptance, of being chosen, something that seldom happened when I was on the bench for team selection in my school days. It was as if my Abba was saying directly to me, “I know all the times you have felt rejected, unloved, not wanted, passed over, not good enough. But you are MINE. I choose you. I want you on my team. You are my star player. My favourite. I am always here with you, never hiding from you, only hidden sometimes by a thick blanket of worldly clutter.
Now I know God does not have favourites – He is the perfect example of parenting – though we are all made to feel we are His favourites – despite gazillions of siblings. Isn’t it incredible to be able to feel that special – no matter what we have or haven’t done or achieved.
The bigger picture still goes on … so when my Father speaks to me, even in the toilet, I watch and listen to whatever He wants to show me. One day I hope to be looking at Orion’s flashing belt from the other side of eternity.
‘You will seek me and find me when you search for me with your whole heart.’(Jer. 29:13)
Speaking of toilets, God gave me another huge revelation that was written on the back of a toilet door in France, several years back. I had been questioning whether He was real or simply a figment of my imagination, in the deepest depths of grief after Mattie died, and He went to crazy lengths to assure me He was very real indeed and there it was – written on the inside of a toilet door, only visible when seated on the loo!
He said, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (Jer. 33:3)
If only I would choose to search Him out, the rewards would be indescribable. I did. They are. And I’ve barely scratched the surface.
It would be easy to imply here that my spiritual life is structured, disciplined and totally sorted. It isn’t. I yearn for it to be so much richer than it is. The only hindrance to that is me. I want to soar with eagles up to my God, however, I am often chained to the ground by my own failures, and a bunch of turkey habits that outlast this festive season. Fortunately, Abba is only too willing to stoop down low and gentle and pick me up, dust me off and give me glimpses of this wondrous story of which I am a part.
So each night, and day, I desire the unexpected. We make our best discoveries on the way to somewhere else. Each time I visit the loo, hang the washing out, mop the floor, peel the vegetables, or just climb, exhausted, into bed at night, I tune into my peripheral vision. I don’t want to miss what He’s displaying on the sidelines, in the seemingly insignificant, in the bigger picture. I’m seeking: He’s hiding phenomenal surprises.
And my favourite part is the hugging and kissing at the end … it’s in the Kingdom rules.
Can I encourage you to seek Him, only Him. Even if it is for a seemingly insignificant short space of time. Everywhere, in everything. It will inspire you, fire you, lift you high – up with the eagles. And we all know we are each, individually, His favourites no matter what anyone else thinks!