We live in a small cul-de-sac where our three children spend most of their non-schooling/waking hours riding bikes or Dora jeeps, digging, flipping, chasing, rolling and talking very loudly. My sweet neighbor and I sit in adirondack chairs or just stand in the middle of the circle many afternoons chatting and watching the Roanoke Circle kids, ages 9, 6, 4, 3 and 2, play.
One afternoon, the activity of choice is Hide and Seek. The 9 year old starts the loud countdown from 20, 19, 18… I look over to see the 2 and 3 year old girls just stop right where they are, in the middle of our neighbor’s driveway, and plop on the ground. Both girls lie belly down, faces in the asphalt, hands over their heads, “hiding.” It’s adorable watching our giggly girls hiding in plain sight waiting for the seeker and yelling out, “Come and find me!”
Days later, I am reminded of this sweetly naïve image of our girls, whose only thought in the game of Hide and Seek is “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me.” Only this time, it’s not quite so sweet. This time, the naïve child in hiding isn’t 2 or 3… she’s 40. And she’s not so sure she wants to be found. This rescued, redeemed, reborn gal is hiding from the only One who has ever loved her completely and unconditionally…again. I am strangely surprised and ashamed when I recognize just how far and how quickly I wander away from Him. Someone once told me, “No matter how far you are down the road, you are still always only a few feet from the ditch.”
But as far from God as I find myself, this place is sadly familiar. It’s so familiar that it’s somehow painfully comfortable. First there’s distance (space to breathe), which leads to detachment, and eventually complete disconnection. When I’m in this space my feelings vacillate between anxiety and numbness. The cause is most often trauma, sometimes simply change, but it’s always driven by overwhelming emotions I have no capacity to manage. This time it’s change. The change is good, God-directed. But with every change, there is always loss. I must let go of what was to embrace what is. And I do what I’ve done so many times before. I shut down.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to handpick which emotions to shelve. If I refuse to feel pain, I also sacrifice joy, excitement, hope, and most of all, intimacy with God. When the awful feelings begin to surface, I pull away from Him and out comes the full arsenal of coping strategies: daydreaming and planning, organizing, lots of chocolate or strict dieting, cleaning (not usually), television, shopping, controlling… and many more. No matter what the ugly coping looks like, and no matter how ugly it gets, I am really only always doing just one thing. I am hiding. From God. I disconnect from Him because He is truth; the Way, the Truth and the Life to be exact. To allow myself to come close to Him means I must rub up against the truth, and my experience has proven that truth hurts. Numbness and anxiety are preferable to pain.
I am having a moment, way down the road, we’re talking weeks, where I realize I am really, really far from my source of love and peace and joy and satisfaction. I started out distant, numb, detached, and now I am in a full blown downward spiral. How do I find my way back to Him? I need to repent. Get in the Word. Call a friend. Confess and pray.
Everything in my heart and head and body resist. I just can’t do it. Honestly, nothing in my flesh wants God. I know I need Him, but right now, nothing in me wants Him. If I was actually feeling at this point, I would be overwhelmed by shame and disappointment in myself. How is it possible to continuously reject the love of my life? I know I’m not alone in this crazy push and pull.
“Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.” Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
At this point, I don’t think there’s even going to be any crawling. I am too weak, rebellious, exhausted, fearful and dying of thirst for streams of living water to move. And then I hear it, just one time, but loud and clear.
“Ask Him to come and find you.”
Instant waves of relief. I am reminded that I haven’t wandered off anywhere that I can’t be found. Like our little girls in the driveway, I am face down, hands over my head, “You can’t see me, if I can’t see You,” hiding in plain sight. Not from the Hide and Seeker of Roanoke Circle, but from El Roi, the God who sees me. Yes, that’s His name, the God who SEES me. Of course it is.
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your Presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there, your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day; for darkness is light with you.” Psalm 139:7-12
El Roi sees me alright. He is well aware of my fear and desperation and sin. Like the sparrow, His eye has not left me for one single second. The truth is that even if I don’t ask Him to come and find me, He will move heaven and earth to bring me back anyway. The Good Shepherd finds His lost little lamb, one way or another. But today, against what feels like an impenetrable force field of flesh, my spirit says it, whispers it, not even out loud. Quietly, desperately, in my mind.
“Jesus, come and find me…”
And He does.
He has and He will, every single time.
Held by Him,