Learning to Listen: Hide and Seek Redux
Updated: May 8, 2022
One of the perks of parenthood is it gives you an implicit license to mess with your kids. I heard about one guy who raised his daughter, without her knowledge, to think that chicken was called beef and beef was called chicken. Every time they served her chicken at home, they called it beef and vice versa. So you can imagine her ire the first time they took her out to a restaurant and she ordered “chicken”–the server brought her chicken when she thought she was ordering beef and the poor server was so confused when the daughter adamantly insisted the dish before her was beef!
I remember one time when my husband and I were playing hide and seek in our house with our younger son. I hid in the basement and my husband hid upstairs. I could hear our little boy plaintively calling out into the emptiness, “Mama? Papa?”
So I let out a faint little whistle. He started to head towards the basement stairs, but just as he was about to start downstairs, my husband echoed my whistle from upstairs. Thinking he had misheard the first time, my son turned around and commenced back up to the upper level. Just as he was arriving at the second floor, I whistled clearly from the basement again. Confused, my son began to run back downstairs. My husband whistled once again from up yonder. This went on for quite some time until we could not contain our stifled snorts of laughter anymore.
When it comes to hearing God’s voice, too many of us think this is the way God operates. We imagine God sitting up on high–messing with us, staying hidden from us, but giving us JUST enough hints to make us run around this tiny planet trying to figure out where God is, what God wants from us and what God is saying.
The reality is this is exactly the opposite of how God operates! The Scriptures are full of promises from God telling us that when it comes to hide and seek, God does not play hard to get:
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” ~ Prov. 8:17
“I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.” ~Isa. 45:18b-19
…and of course, the oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:13-14, where God tells the entire Israelite nation:
“‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.'”
Returning to my earlier story about our mildly torturous form of play with our son:
Obviously, not too long after I had my brief episode of free entertainment, I stopped whistling and called my son by his name. I let myself be found by him and welcomed him with lots of joyous hugs and tickles. I imagine that this is a more accurate illustration of how God relates to us. We are repeatedly told (and I have repeatedly experienced) that God loves to call to us and be found by us–so much so, that sometimes God calls to us even before we go looking!
The Bible is replete with instances where God shows up to those who aren’t even seeking. Pharaoh of Egypt (more than one!), King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Ninevites are just a few examples of God’s promise in Isaiah 65:1:
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’”
So if you ever doubted that God wanted to speak to you, doubt no more. God loves for us to look and listen for God’s voice and presence, but it’s more like an Easter egg hunt where most of the eggs are “hidden” out in the middle of the lawn than a Level 10 escape room where you are theoretically trying to save the world from nuclear annihilation in two hours with mind-warping puzzles that make you want to rip your hair out by the fistful.
Like most things in life, hearing and recognizing God’s voice is a skill that one can develop. Just as a toddler has to be taught that the colored oval thingie lying in the middle of a lawn is something good that they want, we have to be taught to recognize God’s voice when we see or hear it and that it is something good that we want. Many of us have been falsely taught that God’s voice is something bad that we don’t want, when in actuality, it was someone else’s voice, or worse, the devil’s voice. It is not unlike learning to recognize the difference between a plastic egg and a poop nugget on the lawn.
Coming up next: we explore some easy exercises that will begin to teach us how to recognize God’s Easter eggs!