While 93% of Americans profess a belief in God, only 40% of the population attends church. It seems that many people have a need for God without a desire for church. If the old rules for finding God in church are no longer considered valid for many, then new ways to play the hide and seek game of faith must be discovered. Elliott lays down the ground rules for a lifelong search for the "Higher Power" and gives suggestions on where God can be found. In addition to being an excellent nonchurchgoer's path to finding God, Elliott provides an indispensable resource for churchgoers to view the world through the eyes of the nonchurchgoer.
Micheal Elliott is executive director of Union Mission, Inc. in Savannah, Georgia, a nonprofit organization that operates housing programs for homeless people, substance abusers, and AIDS victims. He is the author of several titles, including Running With the Dolphins and Other Tybee Tales (Smyth & Helwys), The Society of Salty Saints (Crossroads/ Continuum) and Why the Homeless Don't Have Homes and What to Do About It (The Pilgrim Press).
When God Is "It"
Excerpt from Playing Hide & Seek
by Michael Elliott
Nobody likes to be "It." Whenever kids play hide-and-seek, everybody wants to hide. It is always more fun to hide than to be responsible for the finding part. Whoever is "It" has to do the majority of the work, and there is always the possibility they will fail to find what they are looking for. No one likes to take such risks, so when choosing who will be "It," we cross our fingers and pray that someone else will be chosen. The same is true when playing hide-and-seek with God. We always want God to be "It." Besides, God is God; God should be "It." We get tired of doing all the searching all the time.
Sometimes God does choose to be "It" and comes looking for us. This is the way most of use like to think because it is more comforting believing God is in control of everything, including the search for the lost. It is always easier to be found than it is to find someone who is hiding--and we certainly like it when our religion is easy. Besides, there are so many other reasons we believe God is "It."
Ministers have said for years that we are lost and that God wants to find us. They cite numerous passages from the Bible about lost sheep, lost coins, and lost people; se we must be lost too, and God wants us found. They say God is always on the lookout for us, and when we want to be found, then we are. We are only found, however, when we want to be.
The hymnals we use in churches have songs such as "Pass Me Not O'Gentle Savior" and "Amazing Grace" (I once was lost, but now am found) that indicate we are lost and God is looking for us. Most people learn their theology from the hymnbook because they sing the words but fall asleep during the ministers sermon.
We believe God is too grown-up to hide when playing hide-and-seek. This would mean that God acts childish on occasion, and this is too hard to accept. Grown-ups are always looking for their children who are forever hiding, and we are supposed to be the children of God, so it must be that way with us too. God is supposed to be the parent.
We all have had those occasions when, sitting in a church pew or alone over a cup of coffee, we ask God to come to us. Then we wait and hope against hope that something happens. This is another indication of how we believe ourselves to be the ones in need of being found and God to be the one to do the finding. Besides, at times we have gone off looking for God in church or at a retreat, but have not been successful in our searches. We conclude that God will have to be "It" because we have done our time doing the searching and have given up. If the game is hide-and-seek, then God must be "It."
We have all heard other people tell stories about how God found them. We conclude that if God found them, then God will find us in the same way. There are great stories about how God came to someone sleeping under a bridge or to someone out at sea in a horrible storm. Guidepost magazine is full of these stories each month, and they make great reading. Professional athletes find God in a lonely hotel room when they realize the millions of dollars they make will not make them happy. Housewives find God when their children go to college and join some cult. Men on exotic fishing trips find God when their raft explodes and they have to sleep outside for several days. Someone finds himself driving a runaway truck, and God appears to steady his hands on the wheel. But this kind of stuff never seems to happen to us. We are not professional athletes, dont know anyone in a cult, have never taken exotic fishing trips, and have not sat behind the wheel of a big truck.
The Bible is also full of great stories about people who were found by God. Abram was sitting around one day when God showed up and invited him to take a long walk. Moses was busy looking after a bunch of sheep when a bush caught on fire and talked to him. Paul was riding a donkey on the Damascus Road when God knocked him to the ground and issued new marching orders. Only we have the same problem as those persons in Guidepost; this stuff never seems to happen to us. God has never said go there, our bushes dont talk to us, and we are pretty certain that the last time we fell to the ground it was not God who pushed us down.
Finally, we have been taught that God is always with us. If this is true, then we do we have such a hard time seeing God? If God were with us all the time, we would certainly know it. After all, everybody knows what God looks like. Everyone knows God is either a bright light that talks or a very large, kindly old man wearing a white robe. The problem is not with us, because we know what God is supposed to do. The problem is God doesnt always appear to know how we want it done. If we had our way, God would subscribe certain rules when being "It" in hide-and-seek.
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