When We’re Good at Hiding


cara meredith -when we are good at hiding-3

I play a mean game of hide-and-go seek.

I know the point of playing with small children is to probably let them find you, but seeing that these small children are my sons, I find it my duty to find an extra good hiding spot and be extra quiet for as long as humanly possible. Hiding underneath a stretch of my husband’s shirts, I pull my legs up to my chest and close my eyes. I breathe in the quiet, the stillness, the absence of sound as their feet tip toe around the house calling out, “Mama? Mama?”

If I’m in a particularly sassy mood, I let them continue to search for a few more minutes, while I gulp down the satisfaction that comes with hiding, the safety that comes from not being seen. But eventually, I too give up.

“Caw! Caw!” I cry out. They listen to the cries of their mama bird and run towards me, arms up in bewilderment.

“But we looked in here!” “You are so good at hiding, Mama!” I know, I know, I want to say in reply. It really is my spiritual gift. But I don’t. Perhaps because the realization feels a little too close to home.

I don’t know about you, but I can be so good at hiding.

I hide myself from my friends and I hide myself from God. I hide myself from husband, from the other parents at school, and from the people at the little Episcopal parish we call our church community. Because if they really knew me, if they really knew the truth about me, would they still like me? Would they still want to be my friend?

I spent much of my 20s and early 30s in vocational ministry. There was a game — because there’s always a game — I played called 20 Questions.

“Let’s play 20 Questions!” I’d say with enthusiasm to one of the young women or men I worked with in ministry.

“20 Questions?” They’d reply. “You mean, like, a game show?”

“Well, it’s kind of like that, but it stars you.”

I’d explain the Incredibly Awesome Game I once invented on the fly: I would ask them 20 questions about their life. The questions might be random, funny, slightly serious, but the questions were entirely about them and what they had to say. And then, they had to answer.

In no way, shape or form would I insert myself into the conversation, except to ask them the question: What’s your favorite color? If you could have one home-cooked meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? If you could rule the world for just one day, how would you fill your twenty-four hours of diplomacy? We usually wouldn’t even get through all 20 questions, because once I got them talking, they didn’t want to stop.

Truth existed in my queries — every teenager, I reasoned, wants to talk about themselves. They want to be known and understood. They just want someone to ask a handful of questions about their lives.

But sometimes, when I asked a question, the student would throw it back at me. What about you? What’s your favorite home-cooked meal? They earnestly wanted to hear my answer, just as they earnestly wanted to get to know me. I might give a pithy, short answer, but I rebounded that ball back to them just as fast as humanly possible: This game is all about you. It’s not about me, silly!

And why?

But why?

As I think back on the experience now, I realize my deflection was a form of hiding. Scared to show them my whole self, I believed that if I just pointed it back to them, if I just asked them a million questions and made them feel like somebody cared, then it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t actually smart enough or cool enough or pretty enough for them.

It wouldn’t matter if I stayed hidden from them.

But we’re not meant to hide. We’re not meant to hide our hearts and our minds and our souls from those whom we’re with in relationship. We’re not meant to deflect, but we’re meant to invest and dig in deep and run the risk of being known.

We’re meant to be the most real and authentic version of ourselves, even if it’s scary, even if it feels like a risk.

So, from one professional hider to another, we got this. We can do hard things. We can expose the deepest parts of our insides to one another, because there is joy and there is glory in giving the truest parts of our lives to other human beings.

Amen? Amen.