“What can we know of their spirituality? Perhaps playing a game of hide and seek is a good analogy here. What we are looking for is certainly already ‘there’ somewhere, but it can be hidden in so many places, peeping with curiosity at our incapacity to notice it. Then, at other times, it can come looking for us, bringing aspects of our own spirituality out of hiding too. And it starts early; even as we gaze at a newborn, or at antenatal scan pictures, we are faced with a mysterious mixture of being and becoming, the hidden and the revealed, the least and the most potent. Wondering about a child’s spirituality is a game you can never tire of.” *
This led me to think about the games of hide and seek my children used to play. “Forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty. Ready or not, here I come.” So begins the very familiar game of hide and seek.
Of course, you will know that the very youngest children display great innocence and trust through their first games of hide and seek. They are always the ones who have to hide, and off they go. And who can forget those lovely games where they always go to the same place to hide, behind the same curtain or chair. And the long process of seeking begins as the adult plays along: “Are you under the table? No, not under there. Are you behind the red chair? No, not behind there. Are you under the blanket? No not there.” As I moved closer and closer to the favourite hiding place the giggles increased, and finally the big reveal, the laughter and the cuddles. And then, let’s play again! There was a tremendous joy and anticipation, the excitement of the wonderful embrace that came with being found.
I am reminded of Gideon, scared and hiding. When we first meet Gideon, he’s down in a hole, hiding from the Midianites. God tells Gideon to tear down an idol that has been erected in his village. Gideon does so… at night, because he’s afraid. And there he is, hiding away and not expecting to be found and embraced by a loving Father.
But here comes God, seeking Gideon and finding him in his hiding place. The remarkable part of all this comes in the very first words God had for Gideon. “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12 NIV)
Mighty warrior? Really? Remember, these words were spoken to a man standing in a hole, hiding. A man who would do his acts of heroism under cover of darkness, because he was afraid. A man who needed a word of reassurance every step along the way.
I like that. It tells me that God sees us not as we are, but as we can be. He can look at me, with my uncertainties and fears, and say, “I’m with you, mighty warrior.” He seeks us out and is ready with encouragement and hope.
When was the last time you played hide and seek with your children? Maybe it’s time to see many more games of hide and seek taking place, for the sheer fun of playing, and the joy of being found. And maybe we will even uncover some deeper truths about the precious children in our care:
“Maybe a first step is to make space in your plans and activities to look with humility and greater attention at those children you work with this week, to seek the often hidden ways that children are closer to God than we are.” (Rebecca Nye)
*Dr Rebecca Nye is a researcher, consultant and trainer in the field of children’s spirituality and the author of Children’s spirituality: what it is and why it matters http://www.premierchildrenswork.com/Past-Issues/2016/June-July-2016/Hide-and-Seek