now you see me, now you don’t | John 16.16-20
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. John 16:16-20 | ESV
“It won’t be long now. Turn your head, and I’m gone. Turn your head again, and here I am.”
That got them talking amongst themselves as they lagged behind.
“What is he talking about? What does he mean? ‘Turn your head, and I’m gone. Turn your head again, and here I am,’ and ‘I’m going to my Abba’?” Over and over again they asked each other under their breath, “What does it mean: ‘It won’t be long now?’ What does he mean?”
Jesus knew they really wanted to ask him directly about all this, so he let them off the hook and into his confidence: “So this is what you really want to know, questioning and prodding one another in hushed tones? You want to know what I meant when I said, ‘It won’t be long now. Turn your head, and I’m gone. Turn your head again, and here I am’? Jot this down in all caps – and underline it while you’re at it: You will wail in agony and sink in despair, but creation will be doing cartwheels of joy. You’ll pull out your hair in grief, but wait till you see the joy that will burst forth in its place! MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Hide and Seek may have been a fun game growing up, but how we hate it when God plays the game with us once we grow up.
“Surely you are a God who hides himself” says ancient prophet.
So say we all.
Any season of change can leave us as disoriented as confused as the disciples.
After three years, more or less, of waking up each morning and turning in each evening with Jesus right there where they could physically reach out and touch him, they couldn’t imagine it any other way. Such a comforting, orientating, with-skin-on presence.
The little boy screams out in his bed, terrified by the thunderous storm overhead. Dad runs into the room. “Don’t worry, God is always with you, you know that, right?” “Yes, Dad, but right now I need someone with skin on!” The disciples have enjoyed that in the midst of their own storms – literally! And now this word: “Now you see me. Now you don’t. And now again you do.”The presence of God in our lives too often seems more like a wandering, wispy cloud than that image of the daily pillar of cloud and nightly pillar of fire in Israel’s exodus story.
We don’t do unpredictable well.
Give me the schedule, make and keep the appointment.
Okay, he says, here’s the schedule: now you see me, now you don’t – and it will drive you crazy with grief, but will then fill you with joy, the shifting perception of my presence now terrifying, now electrifying.
More roller coaster than treadmill, this whole God-business.
At least if we are paying attention it will be.
And this, perhaps, is not such an unhappy thought after all.
How do you handle Hide and Seek when God is the one doing the hiding? How well do you handle the seeming absence of God in seasons of your life?
Abba, help me to better bear my shifting perceptions of your presence. Teach me to trust you when I don’t see you, when I don’t hear you, and life won’t stop and let me off. Give me trust. Through Jesus.