“…and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
Kick the can? Never played it.
Freeze Tag? I’m way too slow.
But Hide and Seek? I’m a master of it. Been perfecting my craft since I was a little kid.
It hasn’t mattered where I’ve lived or what age I’ve been, I’ve always had a certain knack for finding the perfect place to hide: Inside the church.
When I was young and the kids at school were mean, I could escape my troubles at the church. As a teen, when the world seemed too big and scary, I’d hide out at the church. When I became an adult and society threatened with its dangers and decisions and dissonances, I’d drown out all the noise — you guessed it — at church.
Funny, it’s a lifelong game I never realized I was playing, until a certain pandemic hit. I went to my favorite hiding place…and the doors were locked. The building was closed. Nowhere to hide.
There are many wonderful, healthy reasons to be part of a church, but I don’t think hiding is one of them. True, our very sanctuaries are synonymous with places of refuge, but this is different. I’m talking about misusing the church as a place to socially and spiritually distance us from the world.
I’ve always valued church as a place where likeminded souls can come together and praise, fellowship, and even serve together. I don’t think I realized how thick the walls of our churches can actually be–separating us from the rest of the world.
Although churches do function as holy spaces, set apart from daily life, they were not designed to keep us from full participation in that very world. They are not meant to help us avoid the fray or rise above the tumult. They do not exist to shelter its members from getting their hands dirty or avoiding the messiness of everyday life.
The church is not meant to be a hiding place.
Maybe you already knew that. I’m still learning. My whole life has been spent nestled within the arms of one church building or another, and for all the good that has done me, I am coming to realize how I have abused that privilege. Hiding out in the church is no different from Adam and Eve hiding out in the garden — it is refusing to respond to God’s voice, calling us into action.
Perhaps that’s something we’re discovering during this pandemic, the ways we may have used church as a crutch. Well, no more. We may still be stuck at home, but we’re learning that the church is no longer a fitting hiding place. We’ve been pushed out into the world–(or at least on to Facebook).
Things may begin to look different now–more up front presence in our communities. Worship that stretches well beyond its previous reach. Evangelism that does not invite people to hide with us, but involves playing a whole new game: Follow the leader.
In this sense, the Covid-19 craziness of 2020 may have revived Christianity for the 21st century. We may be discovering that God, not some stone building, can be a refuge when times are tough.
Maybe, instead of hiding at all, we can poke our heads out of our houses and greet the world as a new and improved body of Christ! Instead of kicking the can down the road to the next generation, the time for action is now. Instead of freezing in place, we need to be moving in all kinds of new directions.
And if you want to see what church really looks like, start counting the ways. After all…
Have a great week,