… 17, 18, 19, 20, Ready or not, here I come! It’s a game we often play with Micah, and more often than not, he’s not ready, and he’s caught hiding under a blanket in the center of the living room floor. Not that it matters, because even when he finds a good hiding spot, his giggles usually give him away.
Hide and seek is a fun game to play with our kids, but when we play this game with the living God, there is no giggling, just a dreadful feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Somehow, God allows us to live in our fantasies for a while, but when he comes searching, even our most elaborate temples will give us less protection from his searching eyes than that blanket in the middle of the living room.
There was once a man of God who was living in exile on a small Mediterranean island. His aged body showed the scars of a life devoted to following God, at any cost. In his youth, he had spent time with Jesus, listened to his teachings, and even witnessed his death. He went on to write several holy books, which can still be read today in the Scriptures. In his old age, as he was waiting out his time in exile, he received a vision from God. He records it for us in the final book he wrote, the “Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
In the first chapter, he tells us how he was taken up into heaven, and how the Man whom he had followed in his youth, the same Man whom he had seen put to death, appeared in front of him. His hair was as pure as the whitest wool, and his face shown with all the energy of the sun. His voice sounded with the sound and power of many waterfalls, and his eyes, flaming as fire, saw through him so that he fell down as dead. But then, this same Man put his hand on his shoulder, and spoke with words which cut straight and true, “Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore… and I have the keys of Hell and death.”
Caught completely in the open, vulnerable, exposed, naked in front of the Holy God, his words piercing into the deepest part of his being, judging his every thought and intention. This is where John, the man of God, found himself the day of his vision. From where he laid as a dead man, unable to defend himself, he knew there was nothing holy in him, instead, he was made holy by the hand which touched his shoulder. John was not the first and he certainly won’t be the last to find himself in this place.
A man and woman were the first to find themselves in this awkward position of trying to hide from God in the garden he made. 1, 2, 3… they heard him coming. They felt something new deep inside. They didn’t care much for this invasive feeling, so they tried to make it go away by covering themselves with leaves. …17, 18, 19… they still felt that sick feeling gnawing away at their insides, the guilt unacknowledged yet growing greater with each passing moment. They knew their time was up, but in a desperate attempt to escape the inevitable, they dove into the bushes to hide. …20. Found! Their hiding place didn’t work, God was there, like it or not. The feeling in their stomachs continued eating them up, they were dying, but they couldn’t admit it. Just as the Searcher’s eyes saw right through their hiding place, his words cut right through their defenses and on into their motives, rendering them completely at his mercy.
Since that day, there have been others who have found themselves in the presence of the Searcher, and their reactions were similar. They felt that same sick feeling of failure, knowing they hadn’t lived up to their consciences, and being unable to hide or excuse it, they fell down before him as dead. But this Searcher is a God who raises the dead, some to live eternally in his presence and others to be separated from him forever.
God is still counting, but the time is coming when he will come looking, and each of us will find himself in this fearful yet awesome position. Just as John, the man and woman, and these others have, we will face the one who’s been searching for us. How that day transpires hinges upon the decisions we make today. God is already searching, looking for those who will respond to his word. When we hear his words, and when they begin to penetrate the fortresses of our hearts, they begin to arouse that old feeling of failure within us. It’s not comfortable, and many of us run into the bushes in an attempt to silence the pain, but we’re only prolonging the inevitable. If we will just remain, allowing his words to penetrate deep inside of our hearts, if we learn to accept ourselves for the way he sees us instead of the way we want to see us, we will come to realize that this God who sees through us and knows everything about us loves us.
The word of God will bring us to a place where we feel utterly naked under his gaze, unable to resist him, aware that we’re dirty, knowing that he’s aware of it to, yet, instead of killing us, he cleans us, replacing that terrible feeling of failure, fear, and guilt with an uncontainable feeling of love. Suddenly, the thought of hiding becomes ridiculous, although it’s still not easy, as God’s word continues to do it’s work in each corner of our hearts. One day, though, when I appear in front of him with all kinds of fear and joy I’ll be able to say, “Now to you who was able to keep me from stumbling, and to present me faultless before the presence of your glory with exceeding joy…”