LIFE LESSON #2: HIDE AND SEEK
Be Careful Where You Hide
Hide and seek can be such a fun game as kids and as adults. There is something intriguing about hiding from someone. Finding the secret places that no one else would either think to look, or perhaps be unwilling to look carefully enough to find you. We even adjust our selections of hiding places based on how capable we think the seeker will be to avoid them finding us. Looking back on it now (the below scripture brought it back to mind), I learned a valuable spiritual life lesson as a kid while playing hide and seek. A spiritual and physical lesson that I hope you will avoid.
Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty! 11 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
During the summer of my 3rd grade year, our family were invited to meet with another to discuss the final agreement on a remodel job that my father was bidding on. This visit required my sister and I to get a little more dressed up than usual. So, there I was in my nice pair of pants, shirt and shoes as we stepped out of the car. The only direction given to us was to ‘stay out of trouble’ which all seemed easy enough. The only positive thing that I could find from the invitation was that they had three kids that were our age. As we approached the front door of the house, I surveyed the land before me and saw a huge yard that wrapped clear around the farm style house, with fields on both sides and a barn in the back. It was a kid’s dream playground.
The parents quickly introduced the kids and then suggested that we head outside to play while the adults talked about the remodel job. The five of us proceeded to awkwardly walk around the yard making awkward small talk as we tried to figure out what we had in common and what we wanted to do. I saw trees and bushes and planters and sheds scattered around the house and realized it could be a perfect place to play hide and seek. With my amazing intellect in high gear (yes, pride comes before the fall, Proverbs 11:2), I held off suggesting the idea until I could find the perfect hiding spot. As we walked to the far side of the house, I saw it. Just off the main yard was a large patch of the tallest green grass I had ever seen. As I stared at it, I realized that it would be at least up to my chest and would easily hide me if I stayed low. The question was how to get into it without leaving tracks that would give away my hiding place. When the idea finally came to me, I blurted out 'let's play hide and seek' and everyone was just as excited as I was to play.
We gathered in the front yard for a quick round of “eney meeny miny moe” to see who would be the first ‘it” tasked with finding the others. It was their older sister. From our early discussions, I knew that she was smart and would be a worth adversary. However, I also knew my intellect and well thought out plan was not only beyond her ability, but I was confident that it would impress her greatly when it was all over. So, as she closed her eyes and started counting, I waited until the others had ran at top speed toward the back-yard area, while I chose a different path toward the high patch of green grass. As I turned the corner, I must say that I was surprised that the other family members had failed to visualize this incredible hiding spot that was in plain sight and smiled as they ran past it.
I hesitated briefly to pick out my exact landing and hiding spot located in the middle of the green patch, and then with all my strength and agility I ran even faster toward the tall patch of grass. Taking extra care to not touch any of the green that could give away my entrance to it, I aimed my jump as high as possible and launched myself through the air and sailed like an eagle toward my target spot in the center of the tall grass. As my feet fell from the sky and carved down through the grass without a trace, a gentle breeze brought a familiar smell through the air. However, relishing in the thrill of the moment I could not quite put my finger on what it was.
Instead meeting solid ground, my dress shoes slide deeply into a soft gooey pudding. A pudding that did not stop until it was past my knees. Suddenly that familiar smell, the one I initially could not put my finger on, came roaring back to me with intense clarity. In my horror and embarrassment, I had landed in the septic field where every flush from the house had gone home to rest for the past 30 years.
It has always amazed me at how quickly we can transition from a self proclaimed ‘intellectual giant’ to ‘complete idiot’ in the flash (or flush) of a moment. As I stood there, stuck up to my knees in human fertilizer, my first thought was NOT how I was going to explain to everyone why I did not ask the basic questions that could have avoided the situation.
“Why didn’t you ask me about the grass?”
“Why didn’t you test it first to see what it was?”
“Didn’t the smell give away that it was the septic field?”
“Why did you jump so deep into it?”
“Are you stupid or something?”
Sadly, my initial thought was not oh crud, but whether I should wait to see if someone found me before I tried to get out of this mess. Yes, as unbelievable as it may sound, I was still caught in the moment of thinking that this was a pretty darn good hiding spot and that somehow people would still think I was a smart cookie for finding it. Now I understand where the writer of Forrest Gump got his famous expression, “stupid is as stupid does”. He got it from me.
I had not simply ‘stepped in it’, I had literally jumped into it with both feet. I soon came to my senses and realized that if I was to ever get out of it, I would have to slowly battle my way through this gooey pudding and overwhelming smell. It finally dawned on me that it was not that great of a spot, nor was I as smart as I thought I was.
After about 10 minutes of slurping and crawling my way through the most disgusting moment in my life, I emerged from my ‘secret’ hiding place covered in the smelly gooey pudding. As I stood there holding my two dress shoes, shoes that for some reason I felt needed to be rescued from the deepest part of the pudding as well (yes I reached in there with my hands to retrieve them), there stood the other kids staring at me in sad disbelief and the look on my sisters face made it clear she wanted to disavow knowing me.
Was I the last one found? I almost asked, thinking I could still hold onto some sense of victory. The oldest girl, the one I once thought was no match for my intellect, rolled her eyes at the sight of me, shook her head and went and got our parents. The other kids just stood there holding their noses. As everyone circled around me at a distance, I was sprayed with the garden hose to get as much of the filth off as possible. I was totally humiliated and no matter how many times or how well I tried to explain my thinking and reasoning to everyone for my actions, I could never get anyone to buy into the idea that it was somehow a good decision to deliberately jump into a septic field.
Looking back, I don’t remember if my dad ever landed that remodel job from that family, if so, I’m sure is was probably out of pity for having to raise such a mentally challenged son. However, for me, it was something I will never forget.
What were the spiritual lessons learned?
One: No matter how smart or clever that I think I am, the only safe place to hide is within the arms of God.
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalms 32:7
Two: That although the world has many attractive hiding places (money, drugs, relationships, pornography, bitterness, etc.), you better think long and carefully about the consequences before you leap into the sin that those places grow out of. There are always consequences.
Three: Listen to the inner voice and abilities that God gives us (the Holy Spirit) and if it smells wrong, stay away from it. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is and taking the time to pray and learn more about it before jumping in with both feet is a good idea. If you’re still unsure, then sit aside your ‘know it all’ arrogance and pride and ask for spiritual advice from those who you trust. Chances are they may have already had an encounter with the septic field and can keep you from making the same mistake.
Four: I learned that, assuming I ignored the first three lessons and jumped into a sinful septic field anyway, it’s never a good idea to continuing hiding in it, no matter how deep I may have sunk. Whether you’ve come to your senses (Luke 15:11-24) and had enough of the foul sinful smell, or worse, your sinful hiding place has been discovered, the best response is to fight your way out of it no matter how embarrassing or humiliating it might be.
Five: Whether you repented on your own (I strongly suggest this approach) or your secret sin is discovered, own your sin. Don’t try to justify it or hang onto it (pretending it was a good hiding place), wade out of it and face the reality of it. Contrary to what Satan might be telling you, God is not waiting to condemn you, instead like the father of the Prodigal son in Luke 15:20-24, he is looking to forgive and embrace you. You simply need to decide how long you want to sit in it.
Yes, you will be standing there in all your stinky sinful clothing, but at least you’re out of the pit. There will be those who may shake their head and walk away (always nice to find out who your true friends are), those that laugh at your decision (they are often the ones that talked you into joining them in that sin), and others who love you enough to get the spiritual garden hose out (God’s word) to help clean you up (perhaps while holding their noses).
"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Psalms 40:2
Although forgiven, God allows the smell and memory of our sin to stay with us (at least until heaven). Perhaps it’s to help us grasp the depth of His love for us (mercy), or maybe to enhance our inner senses to remind us (and others) to avoid what we think is our next great hiding place. Either way, we need to learn from each new life lesson God rescues us from, not jump back into them.