Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hide and Seek

Ever tried to play Hide and Seek with a three-year old?

Boy oh boy, these kids have NO idea what they’re doing.

Example A: My second-born daughter (D2). She’s currently three-years old and absolutely loves to play what she think is hide and seek in the backyard.

Here’s how that works:

D2: “Daddy, let’s play Hide and Seek, okay?”
Me: Okay, go hide, I’ll count.
D2: (while running away) “Onaway, I’m going to hide.”
Me: “One, two, three”… and so on, until “TENHEREICOME!”

By this time, D2 is laying face down in the grass, about 10 feet from me, giggling uncontrollably. “Are you hiding somewhere?” I ask. “Yes!” she screams, as she looks up at me. “I’m hiding.”

So I walk over, touch her on the back, and say “Gotcha.” And just like that, a spirited round of the pre-school version of “Hide and Seek” comes to an end.

Funny, huh? Funny how no actual “hiding” takes place in this version; and funny too that, when the “hider” doesn’t do much, the “seeker” doesn’t have to do much either.  But in the three-year old version, none of that seems to defeat the purpose of the game. And in the purest sense of the word, this is a childish approach to Hide and Seek.

But as I watched D2 giggling face down in the grass the other night, I realized that many of us, as adults, still play a childish game of Hide and Seek. Like a three-year old in the confines of their own backyard, we actually think there is some place we can go that the Seeker can’t see us. Or in fact we just believe that if we hide our own eyes, we are somehow “out of sight, out of mind.”

Even King David tried to play this childish game with the Lord. At a time when he should have covered his own eyes, he didn’t. Soon enough, Bathsheba was in his home and he was looking for ways to hide it from Uriah and apparently, from God. There he was, out in the open before the Lord, with his eyes and heart turned away, thinking he was succeeding at this very serious game of Hide and Seek. Yet The Lord’s eyes were on David the whole time.

Perhaps our sins are not like David’s but our feeble attempts to hide from the Lord’s presence certainly can be. Perhaps we think, if we don’t look for Him, then He won’t see us. Perhaps we think – like a child with its face down in the grass – we can occupy ourselves with other things and He won’t notice. We know He’s out there, because we’ve communicated with Him before, but somehow, now, we think its best to look the other way, expecting that He will do the same. But He doesn’t. So in other words, the game we think we’re playing with the Lord really isn’t Hide and Seek at all. It’s more just “convince ourselves we’re hidden and hope He doesn’t seek.”

David came to this realization and recorded it for us in Psalms. “Where can I go from Your Spirit,” he asks the Lord in Psalm 139:7. He could sleep in Hell, he could fly away, he could drop into the sea, he could hide in the darkness but none of that would matter to God, David admits, because he cannot flee from God’s presence. What makes us think we are any better at Hide and Seek?  

It may be a fun game with the three-year-old; it’s no way to live a life.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child,” wrote Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:11. “When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Hide and Seek belongs in the backyard. Not in your heart.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Daddy-hood in 3D

I was just getting ready to warm up for my midlife crisis when my wife gave me the news… child number three was on the way.

I remember when I use to tease her about something like that happening.

Of course, we were thrilled; thrilled, excited, happy and grateful to the Lord for yet another miracle.

But, we weren’t prepared. We quickly took inventory of our situation and realized that space-wise, baby stuff-wise, energy-wise, money-wise -- and did I mention, space-wise?-- we may be lacking a bit.  

However, as time wore on we eventually got our bearings back and, after the ultrasound confirmed there was just one, we really did celebrate.

Now, mind you, we didn’t celebrate like we did when we were first time parents. Not because we weren’t as happy (certainly we were) but more because we weren’t physically able. After all, I was 26 when D1 (daughter number 1) arrived; I will be 40 when D3 finally makes her appearance (that D3 designation is also based on ultrasound confirmation). And in between, the time and effort spent chasing and playing with D2 - the 3-year old who came along when I was 37 - has certainly contributed to my aging process. (In fact, it was probably a blessing in disguise the day the windstorm took our trampoline.)

Sure, to be totally honest, we would have done it differently if the Lord would have allowed it. If it had been up to us, and not up to Him, there wouldn’t be nearly 11 years separating D1 and D2. Rather, our children (all 3 of the D's) would probably be in double-digit ages by now, which means the living room wouldn’t currently look like a toy box explosion and there wouldn’t be a cabinet stockpiled with D3’s diapers, ready and waiting, in my garage.

But I am thankful that it didn’t happen the way we had planned. If it had, then, on a perfectly acceptable schedule -- laid out before us in black and white -- we would have stepped through life one phase at a time and stepped right past this "He works in mysterious ways moment". Instead of installing an infant seat in the car, I'd probably be installing a ceiling fan in the man cave. Instead of helping to decide baby names, I would be helping to decide what to do with the spare bedroom when D1 flies the nest. Instead of opening our doors to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny in the coming years, we would simply be longing for the days when they used to come around. 

But in His plans, the nest is not going to be empty for a while; cookies and milk will still be on our Christmas Eve "to do" list and, hopefully, "Daddy's home!" will be a familiar sound for years to come.

Yes,  that midlife crisis stuff will have to wait because Daddy-hood, it seems, is just getting started. And, instead of our own plans, laid out in black and white before us, we're following the Lord’s plans, laid out before us in all the vivid colors that we could never have planned for on my own.

So what if we we're not prepared? We're ready. Ready to experience His plans..... in 3D.

Grandad's Pedometer

This was the early 1980s, maybe even the late 1970s, so all the digital gadgets we now take for granted weren’t around yet. Instead, Grandad had one of those pedometers that looked like a vehicle’s odometer. It made a steady clicking noise with each step he took. And in those days, just after his retirement from a 35 year career spent making tires at a BF Goodrich plant, he was racking up the miles on that pedometer.

I was 10, maybe 12. It was that very special time in my life, so long ago, when my grandfather was still taller, stronger and faster than I was. So I tagged along behind, trying to keep up, as we went through the gate past the barn, cut through the pasture behind his house, crawled through the barbed-wire fence and finally found ourselves on the old railroad bed. It was the height of summer, everything was green or blue and the only thing either one of us really had to do was live and breathe.

Even in those days, 30 years ago, that railroad bed was long removed from its days of service. There were neither ties nor rails to be found; only the gravel bed was left, but it was wide, smooth and inviting. It cut a long path through the countryside just south of Miami, Oklahoma, and just east of my grandparents’ property. It was the perfect place to put that pedometer through its paces.

So Grandad did. He moved fast in those days, so I moved faster than I was used to, just to keep up. I remember that he sang or whistled or hummed, or did a combination of all three (I am certain those who knew him best can still hear that sound). The soundtrack for that walk was Grandad’s song, the click of the pedometer and the crunch of our feet in the gravel.

Why this memory suddenly came to me on a cold and dreary winter day, I don’t know. After all, I was sitting in an office, surrounded by four mustard-colored walls, with a space heater at my feet, work piled on my desk and the weight of adulthood pressing down on me, when a long ago walk came to mind. Seconds before I was completing a routine work assignment and then suddenly, out of the blue, that memory showed up. It was fresh and clean and warm and clear and the passage of time had given it great value; perfecting it in my memory.

I remembered how we would walk south, until the railroad bed met the dirt road. Then we would follow the road back west, eventually turning north on the paved road, for just a few yards, until we were back home again. Looking back now, I know it wasn’t much of a hike distance-wise. At the time though, I felt like we had proven ourselves worthy to travel with Lewis and Clark.

In the fall of 1994, probably 15 years or so after that summer walk, my grandparents moved away from that place. By then, Grandad was the veteran of two hip replacements and one open-heart surgery. As a result, it was now a cane, not a pedometer that accompanied him on walks, short as they may be.

Looking back, I cannot say that I learned anything profound on that walk, or the many others I took with him in those early days of my life. Sure, I picked blackberries and threw rocks and maybe even found an occasional artifact or two, capable of holding a 10-year old’s attention. But I don’t remember asking him any probing life questions, and I don’t remember him offering any deep insight. Sure, some of that came in my later years, but not on that day, not on that walk. Instead, it was just my Grandad and I, the sound of our walk, and so much summer freedom and time that we could afford to waste it in large amounts.

But as I look back today, I realize that, instead of wasting it, we have preserved it. .