Without warning, Reese would bury her face in her hands, in the couch, or in her blanket. Once she even buried her face in my armpit. I could still see Reese, of course. But, I’d play along. That was my job as a father.
Another part of my job was saying things like, “Where’s Karyssa? She was here a second ago? I already miss her? Come back, Reese, come back!” Sometimes Reese would say something back to me, and so I’d respond, “Now I’m really worried. I can hear Reese, but I can’t see her. This is strange, very strange indeed.”
When Reese felt it had gone on long enough, she would dramatically reveal her face. I would be required by the unspoken rules of the game to exclaim, “There she is!” Ridiculous, I know. But fun.
In so many instances, I have found that being a parent is a way to imagine a little of what it might be like to be God. Playing this game with Reese was one of those instances where I found this to be true.
It occurred to me that from God’s perspective when I occasionally tell the Lord to get lost and run away I must look a bit like Reese did to me when she “hid” from me on the couch. Sure Reese’s game was fun play, and my little rebellions against God are certainly not, but the picture still seems to fit.
I imagine Jonah looked a little like Reese when God told him to go and preach repentance to Nineveh, and Jonah responded by running in the exact opposite direction.
It seems to me that when I (or perhaps even you) “run” from God we may just be hiding our eyes and thrusting our face in God’s armpit. In other words, we think we are going far away, but we’re not really going too far after all.
The singer of Psalm 139 meant put it well when he sang:
7Where can I go from your spirit, O Lord? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in the land of the dead, you are there. 9If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
And realizing the silliness of this “game” we play with God reminds me of what Peter said in John chapter 6:
67So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
In short, whether we are trying to walk with God or trying to walk away from God, God is not ever too far away.
It seems to me that there are not many true-blue atheists in the world. You know, people who to the depths of their deepest being believe absolutely that that there is no God. But, there are tons of “functional atheists” on the loose, and I confess that sometimes, almost accidentally, I become one of them.
A functional atheist is someone who thinks that some god is out there somewhere, but just not where that particular person lives. God is “the man upstairs” as in a god not here, a god far away.
Functional atheists seem to believe that their daily, real lives, their hates and loves, their thoughts and actions are “hidden” from God. No matter what they say on Sunday, for the functional atheist God is not really there with them as they hash things out on Thursday.
But, what if I imagined this spiritual hiding were as silly and untrue as Reese’s “hiding” from me under the blanket while our knees touch as we sit beside one another in the living room?
Maybe then I would just give up on functional atheism and see God as a constant, interested presence in my life. Maybe then I would simply pray, “God, I trust you are there beside me. I trust that I have seen your heart in Jesus Christ. I trust you love me. So, I open my daily life to you. Guide me as you will. Fix in me what you will. No more games. Now I’m going to lower the blanket and take my face out of your armpit. Amen”
How would giving up the game change me as a person? How would it change you?