“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.
New York City is filled with cement barriers, arranged and rearranged by work crews all day long. I once saw a section of barrier in front of a construction site on Broadway. It had just been moved into position among a long row of similar ones. But this one was different. It was the only one marked. It caught my attention and got me wondering because on it, in a great scrawl of black spray-paint, were two words: FIND ME.
In that moment, I read these words as a kind of universal prayer, worded as a child might, when playing hide-and-seek. “Find me.” Come on, God, see if you can find me when I run from you. There have been times when I have hidden from God and from myself, all the while yearning to be lifted out of a lonely spot of my own making. Find me, God; I’m too busy or too ashamed or too worried to step out and meet You today. Look here! I’m over here — hiding! As if God were unaware. As if God were not as near as my next breath.
In truth, there is no hiding from God. How can one hide from God when the Spirit is indwelling? In a letter to Daisetz Suzuki, Thomas Merton wrote:
The Christ we seek is within us,
In our inmost self,
Is our inmost self,
And yet infinitely transcends ourselves.
At moments when I am not quite feeling God’s presence in my life, I pray that God will show me how I’ve been accompanied that day, those moments in which God was especially close. Practices like centering prayer, the Ignatian Examen, and contemplative arts can help to build a discipline of both noticing God’s invitation and choosing to respond — choosing to be seen.
But (spoiler alert) it is inevitable that when you spend time resting in God and gazing upon God in contemplation, you will be confronted with your humanity. The sight of God, it seems, also involves seeing oneself — the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we let light into our hiding places, we must turn and face who we are. This is not always easy, in part due to what Henri Nouwen called, “humanity’s endless capacity for self-rejection.” Even so, it is in God’s nature to look upon all with unconditional love — absolutely, completely, and without reservation. Exactly as we are.
So, then, is God looking for us or are we looking for God? Do we play hide-and-seek with God? Does God play hide-and-seek with us? Just how does this mysterious exchange of life between God and us play out?
“I happen to believe,” says Chris Lowney in his book Heroic Leadership, “that ‘if you are looking for God, God will find you.’ Ignatius of Loyola or Mother Teresa would have likewise believed that even as we are looking, and even when we mostly feel lost, God is somehow finding us, whether or not it feels that way to us.”
When I pause to reflect on the wonder of this ever-present, abundant gift of love, my desire to hide my brokenness begins to fall away. When we take time to rest in God, we dispose our hearts to receive God’s all-surrounding grace: Yes. Yes, I trust you deeply and don’t want to be far from you. How comforting are the words of Jeremiah 29, wherein God says, “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me.”
I am learning that God is not hidden and that I cannot hide from God, unless I have closed my heart to God. God is with us. In us and all around us. And when I close my eyes in prayerful contemplation, to quiet my mind and open my heart, I sometimes hear the still small voice of God whispering to me, “I am right here; I am always with you. We have found one another, once again.”
What is your experience of God searching for you?
How willing are you to invite God into the hidden places of your heart? If you resist, why?
Time and again You have revealed yourself to us.
Forgive us when we pretend as if You are not here.
Forgive our childish impulse to hide our
brokenness from you and from ourselves.
When we draw in, we ask you to draw us out.
When we are hiding, call us into Your Light.
We long to connect to your indwelling Spirit
We long to welcome you into our lives.
Help us to turn our eyes and hearts to you
So that we may live in the freedom of your grace.
May you find God. And may God find you. We hope the Discovery fall faith formation series, Prayer, Liturgy & Contemplative Practice, is life-giving for you.
Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones is Trinity’s Associate Director, Spiritual Practices, Retreats, and Pilgrimage. Share your thoughts or questions with Kathy, and join her Wednesdays at 6:30pm for Contemplative Practice with Poetry.