Hide and Seek

The Guideposts senior editor shares how faith can be a game of hide and seek.


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This happened on Saturday, by a river, in the sun, beneath an elm tree. My daughter Frances and I were in a park. We’d escaped in a rental car from the retreat center where my wife Kate was leading a church youth camp.

We felt free. When you live in New York without a car, driving becomes a delicious pleasure. The retreat center was in Connecticut, a dozen or so miles from the Connecticut River. We drove to Essex, a tiny town (population 6,505) near the river’s mouth.

Essex is old. It was first settled in the 1600s and was attacked during the War of 1812. It’s like a dowager lady who never leaves home without her gloves. Main Street, sloping down to the river, is a parade of colonial houses, bright white churches and a town green with a gazebo.

Frances and I were at the gazebo. We’d already been to the river, where we watched seagulls come and go and sailboats ply the water. It was unnaturally warm for April, almost 80 degrees. Trees barely blushed with green. The river was a cold, metallic blue.

At the park, however, recent rains had given birth to a carpet of grass. The gazebo was ringed by a low bench, which Frances climbed and balanced along. She spied a wagon full of toys, a rubber ball. “Not ours, Frances,” I said. “We can’t play with them.” She looked sad.

We watched families walk past, some with brand new babies. Frances, who is two and a half, was fascinated. “That baby’s crying,” she said. “It’s all right,” I said, “that’s what babies do. You used to cry like that. But you’re not a baby anymore.” “No,” said Frances, “I’m a little girl.”

It was time to go. The teens at the camp would be finishing their afternoon project and we needed to pack up before dinner. “Let’s go, Frances,” I said. “No!” she cried. “We have to go,” I said.

I walked across the green toward Main Street, where our car was parked. I turned around near the street. Frances was still at the gazebo. She saw me and shrieked with delight. She ran behind the gazebo to hide. I waited. She peeked out, shrieked again and withdrew.

I tiptoed to a nearby elm and stood behind it. Frances peeked out again. This time she didn’t see me. Her face fell. She ran from the gazebo and looked everywhere. Her hair, long and fine and blond, streamed from her head as she ran.

Finally I leaped out from behind the elm. Frances shrieked with an almost uninterpretable sound. There was delight in it but also flooding relief, confusion. For a few seconds her world had turned inside out. Dad was gone. The game had turned dark. She’d gotten what she wanted and she didn’t want it.

We ran toward each other. I picked her up and swung her around. We ducked behind a few more trees, examined their roots, noticed some bugs, got dirt on our hands and made it to the sidewalk.

Of course I know just what Frances was doing, what she was thinking. I do the same thing all the time. With God. Even with other people. Don’t you? Don’t you want to be known and loved utterly, the way God loves? And yet don’t you say an automatic “No” whenever God asks you to come along? Don’t you hide, daring God to come after you? And when God doesn’t come, when God isn’t where you thought God was, aren’t you bereft? I am.

We drove home listening to the radio. We put the windows down. I gave Frances some grapes, which had grown warm in the car. We were together. It felt fine.

Jim Hinch is a senior editor at GUIDEPOSTS. Reach him at [email protected].

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