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Why Can’t I Find You?

Where are you Jesus?
Why can’t I find you?
have you disapeard?
have you left me hear alone?
 
God wear you?
I cannot see you
are you gone forever?
Why can’t I see you?
Are you still listening to me?

——

The preceding found its way to my inbox courtesy of a young child this week.   At first, I just sat and stared blankly at the words in front of me with a combination of sadness and wonder at the unadorned honest longing of these few short lines.  I felt sadness for this little person, and a bit of anger, if I’m honest.  I wished that these big questions wouldn’t rudely barge into a happy childhood uninvited—that they would wait at least a little longer before invading this precious little heart and mind.  I wished they would just go find an adult to torment.

Of course, it’s not altogether surprising that children should be thinking about these questions.  Jesus seemed to think quite highly of the capacity of children, after all.  And I know that my own children have spoken words that were true and good and provocative and instructive to me, even when they were very young.  Perhaps we don’t give kids enough credit.  Perhaps we just assume that they are happy with their snacks and video games and friends and the latest offering from Disney or Pixar.  Perhaps there are unplumbed depths to their souls that we are unwilling to explore with them because we think they aren’t ready or can’t comprehend or aren’t interested.

Or maybe we don’t go to these places with children because we’re afraid of what it might reveal about our own hopes and fears and doubts and struggles and assumptions about the way the world is and what, if anything, it all means. Maybe the similarities hit too close to home.  Maybe we just sail through our moments and our days, assuming that the grownups around us are mostly fine, that their lives are well-ordered, that their jobs are fulfilling, their relationships satisfying, their children well-adjusted and “normal,” their beliefs about God and faith and good and evil mostly settled and secure.  Maybe we are too easily satisfied with (anesthetized by?) food and drink and movies and sports and church and whatever else we fill our days with.  Maybe during the rare moments when we are quiet and receptive, when we unplug and disconnect, the same unsettling questions occur to us:

Why can’t I hear you?

Are you listening to me?

Why can’t I find you?

I started reading Eric Weiner’s Man Seeks God yesterday—another account of an older someone seeking a God who seems stubbornly to recede from view.  In the Introduction, he quotes a few lines from a poem by Stephen Dunn:

you can’t teach disbelief
to a child,
only wonderful stories 

Yes, wonderful stories.  That is what we need, whether we are three or ninety-three or anywhere in between.

I continued to sit and stare at these words on the page—these tokens of longing from a little person wondering about the God who can’t be seen.  And, in the end, I did what I should do far more frequently.  I prayed.

I prayed that this child would be open to wonder—open to the unexpected ways that God speaks.  I prayed that they would not feel alone, and that their curiosity and love for God would not be snuffed out.

I prayed that the people in their life would hug them often, that they would be willing to sit and talk with them, to honour their questions, that they would not silence them too quickly, that they would remind them that the touch and the voice of God very often comes through the touch and voice of one another.

I prayed that they would be told wonderful stories by people who love them.  I prayed that this child’s imagination would be captured by these stories, and that these stories would invade their heart and mind with beauty and hope.  I prayed that the deus absconditus—the hidden God—would be found by this little seeker… That he would come out to play.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yvonne #

    Thanks Ryan. Well said. Thanks be to God that you are in Nicki & Claire’s lives.

    January 24, 2012
  2. Liz #

    I have nothing else to say but this: beautiful.

    January 24, 2012
  3. Paul Johnston #

    Beautifully written, Ryan. I shall read this post several times, I’m sure. 🙂

    “Let us pray”, how prudent. How else can we begin? And if we have the courage of conviction, perhaps we say, as you infer, “His spirit is with me. Come let me show it to you, let me share it with you.”

    By most cultural standards, a radically presumptuous statement to be sure. Even to the Christian believer, a perspective that should always be recognized as a potential minefield of false prides and deceits.

    And yet the voices of others are loud, clear and unashamed. They are pervasive and persistent within our culture. They “barge in” and innocence is suspiciously interogated as if were the perogative of the naive and the ignorant.

    Somedays I am struck by the obvious truth of Ephesians 6.

    January 24, 2012
    • Thank you, Paul. You are surely right about the pervasive and persistent voices that interrogate and destabilize the innocence of children (and adults, too!).

      January 24, 2012
  4. James #

    Great story, Ryan. The first encounter I remember with this kind of question was when my daughter was 3ish. There was some issue troubling her, which I have forgotten. I suggested as we ask Jesus to help us. Her response was, “But I need someone with skin.”

    January 24, 2012
    • What a great response—and a pretty profound, if unintended, theological statement on the human need for community as well :).

      January 24, 2012
  5. Thank you, Yvonne and Liz, for the very kind words.

    January 24, 2012
  6. Ernie #

    As adults, one of our prime frailties is that we think we are there to give our children advice…when all they seek is to be their friend.
    I believe that we as adults are not very well equipped to stroke a child’s creativity, sense of wonder and amazing potential..we are though, I fear, quite adept at snuffing it out
    Christ knew how to flush out such potential

    January 24, 2012
    • Yes, Christ certainly did. And thanks be to God, there are those out there who do have the gift of cultivating wonder and curiosity in children, even if there is much in our world that works against these things.

      January 25, 2012
  7. Ryan: Great thoughts on children. They are quite a responsibility that is entrusted to us by God! Also…great to see MDS as a link on your blog. Blessings to you and Naomi and children!
    Anne

    January 25, 2012
    • Thank you, Anne. And of course, I’m happy to promote the good work done by MDS!

      January 25, 2012

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