My children are long past the age of taking delight in childhood games, but I remember hours in years past playing hide-and-seek together, even though it was a game they never quite learned to play according to the rules. In fact, I used to worry about my son. For years I couldn’t get him to understand that he shouldn’t yell “ready” when he’d found a good hiding place; that only gave it away. He was missing the whole point of the game, I explained. One wants to hide well! Only later did I come to realize that from his perspective, I had missed the whole point of the game. The most fun comes, of course, in being found! Meister Eckhart expressed this mystery well when he said that “God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding and so gives himself away.” Even God—perhaps especially God—discovers the highest joy in hiding only so as to be found.
This simple truth reveals a fault that cuts through much of our mistaken thinking about God as Deus absconditus. Too often we associate the “hiddenness of God” with a fearful sense of obscurity, inaccessibility, or remoteness—as if the divine inscrutability were an end in itself. We lose the playfulness involved in this truth. Looking upon God’s act of masking or veiling as a means of protecting the divine majesty from prying human eyes, or as way of protecting us from a grandeur too terrifying to perceive, we forget that God’s hiding is rooted first of all in divine compassion. God hides not only to protect, but also to draw us in love.
God’s elusiveness serves a longing for relationship. Hiding, therefore, can become an act of playful teasing—a blithe form of seduction, ...
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