Every kid I know loves the game hide-and-seek, whether I’m babysitting for some friends or hanging out with my nieces, it’s one of the first ideas that comes to their minds when brainstorming how to spend our time together. Even just the other day I was talking with my nieces on the phone using FaceTime when my youngest niece, Maddie, suggested we play hide-and-seek. I love her childlike heart that still thinks anything is possible, even playing hide-and-seek despite being over 1000 miles away from each other. So we did. Grandma helped a little bit by scanning the room until I “found” her. She was so excited!

The enthusiasm for this type of game continues for older kids as well. Even my high schooler students at church beg to play Sardines every chance they can, a reverse game where one person hides and everyone else seeks them out. They clamor to be the one to hide.

But I don’t think it’s really about the hiding that makes this game so appealing. Perhaps we all have this innate desire, even from young ages, to be found. We long to be noticed, to be sought after, to be seen. Being pursued shows value and worth… to a toddler… to a teenager… to us adults, too.

Don’t we often play our own games of hide and seek? Whether with other people or with God, we hide behind busyness, behind masks of “fine”, behind Pinterest-perfect snacks for kids’ classrooms or behind instagram posts that only show a small sliver of the reality of our lives. We hide, and yet, it seems no one really wants to be stay hidden. No child enjoys it if they hide too well and can’t be found. It might be fun at first, knowing you did a good job, but then doubts creep in wondering if you will ever be found. Again, this mirrors real life.

Has anyone even noticed that I haven’t been around church for over a month?

Will anyone see that I’m not really “fine”?

I know my life is a mess but sometimes I just wish they’d find me out so I wouldn’t have to put on the show anymore.

I know I SAY I don’t want anyone to know what’s going on, but it’s actually pretty lonely.

Oh yes, we know how to play hide and seek, perhaps all too well. While, according to the Encyclopedia of Play in Today’s Society traced the origins of this children’s game back to at least the 2nd century, we’ve really been playing for much longer than that.

“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.” – Genesis‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭‬‬

Shame was what caused these two, the very first humans–and probably many of us–to hide. They had done the one thing God has asked them not to do, they broke the one rule that He knew would keep them safe and free and full of the most abundant life. They had stepped over the line and now their relationship with God was different.

Instead of delighting in joining God on an evening stroll through the literally PERFECT garden, they hid. Behind some trees they went. Like a two-year old who hides practically in plain sight, God wasn’t fooled when He came to find them. “Where are you?” He called. Knowing what I know about God through Scripture, I imagine His tone was much like that of mine when I wander around the house searching for my nieces even when I know exactly where they already are, “I wonder where Maddie could be? Could Karlie be behind the curtain?”

He, of course, knew what had happened. He also knew exactly where they were. He didn’t need to ask them their location when “Where are you? came out of His mouth; He needed them to hear that despite what they had done, they were worth seeking out, worth finding. There, in the middle of the mess they’ve made, He would not leave them in hiding. He would come, that day, and He would come again, in the form of a baby, who grew to be a Messiah, a Savior on a seeking mission:

“Jesus responded, … For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke‬ ‭19:9-10‬ ‭‬‬

So whether we’re hiding in shame of what we done like Adam and Eve, or hiding from the hurt of what’s been done to us in this broken world… if we’re hiding in “bushes” of perfectionism, pain, pressure, or pleasures… whether we’ve been here just a short time or if it feels like we’ve been waiting forever to be found, Jesus comes. He’s on a mission. He knows right where you are and He doesn’t just seek you out to shame you more or tell you what you could have done differently. No, our God rejoices and celebrates when you are found!

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’”Luke‬ ‭15:4-6‬

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” Luke‬ ‭15:22-24

Like a lost sheep found by a shepherd or a lost son found by a father, our God delights in finding us. Come out of hiding today, you have been found!

Olly Olly Oxen Free! You can come out of hiding and not lose the game! God has made a way to cover the shame and heal the hurt. Save the hide-and-seek games for fun Saturdays with the kids. Live as God’s child, found and free today!