When I was in First Grade, in the days before texting and emails, my teacher sent home a handwritten note pinned to my little blue striped shirt. Obviously, I had done something wrong, but what? Once I got off the bus and crossed the living room with my walk of shame, my mom unpinned it and read it. The note simply stated, “I cannot get his attention.”
On the last day of school that year, all of my friends got diplomas from this teacher that said “Congratulations for Graduating to Second Grade.” Mine didn’t say that. I felt confused. I realized not everyone in my class had received the same diploma I had. I frantically ran around the classroom to see if my friends had received the same judgment; they hadn’t. Had I heeded my teacher's warnings? Had I done all I could have? Now what?
I wanted to hide and disappear altogether. I was scared and alone. All of my friends were graduating, and well, I wasn’t. I was embarrassed, ashamed, rejected, and afraid. In the future, what was in store? In hiding, I sought out comfort and safety in others - a pattern to this day I have to fight vigilantly.
That note home and my father's discipline got my attention. That diploma and its shame got my attention. Seeing my wife walk down the aisle got my attention. Touching an electric fence on my honeymoon got my attention. Taking home my son from the hospital got my attention. Seeing my daughter cry got my attention. Shutting down our church plant got my attention. May I have your attention, please?
Recently, I was challenged by a dear friend to slow down and go back to grade school. To help me explain, let’s play a little game of “hide and seek.” *Place your virtual reality headset on.* You find yourself on a grade school bus. Think back with me to the last time you relapsed into a habitual sin. When was it? Last month, last week, yesterday, or a few minutes ago? The bus starts driving there. First off, when and where were you desiring to “hide?” How did you try to cover yourself? Why were you hiding, and from whom? Lastly, what ultimately were you truly “seeking?”
The ultimate goal is to see how Jesus is better than whatever power, control, comfort, or security we receive from a moment of temporary high.
The ultimate win is to hide in Him and seek Him alone. Contrary to our childhood game, we are longing to be found…by Jesus.
This wasn’t a new revelation from this friend. In fact, many have pointed out this craving in my soul - probably yours, too. This year in particular, the Holy Spirit has done the teaching, and God has, like a good daddy, gotten my attention. I believe He is doing that for you today.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” - Philippians 1:6
This year in particular, through some bold and loving people, my wife and others have been willing time and time again to cross social graces even without getting permission to hit the brakes for me. When a person who claims to be a follower of Christ is walking out of step with the Gospel, we need not wait to get permission to call out sin for what it is. We already have a calling and commission to do so for believers (Galatians 2:11).
I urge you to do two things. Like pedaling that lime bike or walking down a street in uptown, use one pedal, take one step at a time… 1. Repent, and 2. Believe. Repent of your unbelief in trusting in yourself, your vision, your plans, your boundaries, and your goals over His. Stop looking at people for what only God can give you. I hope you know I am typing this first and foremost for me. Is this next step, person, thing, journey, path, relationship, status, career, school, opportunity, or plan promising to be more beautiful to your heart than Jesus? How is Jesus better?
Now, look down, and see I am offering you a note and a pin for your shirt. Now, it’s your opportunity to take it home and share this message to all who need it. Don't feel any guilt or shame - just a simple ask full of grace and mercy. It’s a good word. You are loved and chosen, based solely on Jesus’ perfect performance - not yours. This gospel message is still needed for your heart and the hearts of those around you daily.
The first recorded spoken words of Jesus remind us of this.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” -Mark 1:15
Repent, and believe. It’s a lifestyle. Oh, and don’t forget about your friend on the bus that might need a little pin poking too. You both could go for a little VR game of hide and seek in the days ahead. Fear not, though. God isn’t afraid of the dark (Psalms 139:12).