With a smile on her face and the full force of her 4-year-old voice she yells, “Hide and seek!” She runs to the dining room while covering her eyes and sitting down in one fell swoop. “One, two, three, four….Hide and seek!” Her brother stands in place, his happy feet stomping up and down, while she counts. “Ready?! Hide and seek,” she yells again.
For now, hide and seek is my daughter’s new favorite game. She runs down the hallway and bursts into rooms. Her younger brother always trailing behind her happy to be by her side. They make up their own rules running back and forth and counting to ten every few minutes. “One, two, three! Hide and seek!” It’s as much about this declaration as it is the actual finding.
Most Sundays after church, it’s a free-for-all for my children. After the hour or so of wrangling, snack-providing, and all around juggling of kids, crayons, books, and toys, I’m ready for a few minutes to relax. They usually find their friends and chase one another around and between the pews. They know where to find the extra communion bread. They love to be held by their daddy as he greets the members of the church. This past week when it was time to head home, I caught sight of my daughter as she turned to me, “Hide and seek, Mama?”
A laugh comes out of my mouth, “No, we’re not playing hide and seek. Let’s go!”
I might think it’d be silly or inappropriate to play hide and seek at church. But that wouldn’t be the truth of my experience. Hide and seek, or sardines more accurately, was a big part of church for me growing up, even through college, and in my first church serving as pastor. It was the youth group overnights at our pastor’s house where I remember finding secret nooks in his basement as we played sardines and waited with muffled laughs for everyone to find us. In college the massive chapel at night equally scared and inspired me while hiding curled in the pulpit overlooking the pews. And finally as a pastor I picture myself tucked behind choir robes in a small room off the sanctuary.
A flood of memories comes to me with my daughter’s simple, joy-full request, “hide and seek, Mama?” But for this day, it’s too late. We’re already on our way home.
What is it in the game of hiding and seeking that brings such joy? What is it in loud voices counting, quiet breaths hiding, and the cheers of finding friends that delights at so many ages?
Could it be that our whole faith life feel like a game of hide and seek? We desire to know God and to have a relationship, we want to find that spark of hope, and find the overwhelming gift of grace that is ours for the taking. We want to be found and known by friends and family, really known in all our brokenness, insecurities, and fears. We want to be sought out by the One who first breathed life into this world and us. And we want to help others find this amazing grace and love that transcends time and place.
So perhaps the church is precisely the place where we should be playing hide and seek. Maybe the church teaches us over and over again what it means to be found in Christ – fully known, fully loved, fully claimed as God’s beloved child. Maybe we need the help of others to find this joy and this love in God, inviting our friends to play with us and dive into relationship.
My daughter asks, “Hide and seek, Mama?”
Yes, my love, go and hide. For you are always found in God.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/