I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of kids and we would spend most of our summer days outside playing together. We often played “Hide and Seek” and its variant, “Kick the Can.” I was a pretty good hider, but not a very good runner, so I had a hard time getting to base before the person who was “it.” One of my favorite things to hear was the phrase “olly, olly oxen free!” which seems to be a corruption of the phrase, “All the, all the outs in free!” signifying that anyone who was still out could come in and not be “it.” Because I was a good hider, I would sit very still until I heard this yell, and only then come out of my hiding spot.
But sometimes the person who was “it” would forget to yell this phrase. The group might start the next game without me – while I was still hiding! Or I would get bored with hiding and deliberately show a foot, or arm, or the top of my head so that the seeker would see me and we could race for the base. After all, the point of “Hide and Seek” is to be found by the seeker, not to stay hidden forever.
Do you ever play “Hide and Seek” with God? Maybe you think that God is hiding himself from you. Maybe you think you don’t want God to find you. Maybe you think no one cares how you feel and you feel invisible, hidden from everyone. Maybe you have been hidden for so long that you don’t remember the way back to base. Maybe you are stuck in one spot, wishing that someone would call “Olly, olly oxen free” so you could come out and be found.
There is One who is seeking you, even now. He stands as the father waiting for the wayward child to return home (Luke 15:11-32). She is a hen brooding on her chicks and not satisfied unless all are gathered into the nest (Matthew 23:37). He is a shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep who are “in free” to seek the one who is still hidden (Luke 15:3-7). She is a woman who sweeps and cleans and searches until the one lost coin is recovered (Luke 15:8-10). And when he finds the one he seeks, he celebrates – he throws a banquet – he asks everyone to rejoice with him. She gathers in the one who was lost and holds that one close, whispering “Welcome home, my child. All the outs in free!”
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.