Summary: God always reveals Himself in personal ways. Three times "hidden" appears in Colossians: to show that there is meaning in our suffering, to demonstrate that transformation can come, to call us to personal commitment, all at the right times.
Every child loves to play “Hide and Seek”. And every grandparent loves to play with them. But the lesson I learned is that playing “Hide and Seek” is a delicate operation. It is a test of grandpa’s interpersonal skills. “Hide and Seek” is about more than using your powers of observation to find where the little ones have tucked themselves away. It is about being sensitive to what it means to be hidden.
In our back yard there is a corner filled with flowers and ornamental grasses and a small tree. Just in front of that corner is a rock path, and beside that path a more densely packed bed, with low-slung holly trees and well developed azaleas. At one end of the path there is nothing but my compost cage, and at the other end there are blackberry and raspberry vines. So, if you can get the picture, there is only one way in and out of this path into a garden jungle, a path my granddaughters call their “secret place”.
So if they want to play “Hide and Seek” naturally grandpa volunteers to be “It.” Wouldn’t matter if I volunteered or not, they have two votes, and I’m “It”. I close my eyes, and off they go, giggling and chattering about their secret place. When I announce, “Ready or not, here I come”, I have two choices. Since to my adult mind, which works on logic, it is perfectly obvious that all I need to do is go down that rock path a few steps to look under a holly tree or peek behind the compost, I can find them right away. Or, since I am grandpa and therefore not as much interested in winning the game as I am in seeing the girls have fun, I can pretend to be half-blind and stagger all over the yard, clamoring, “I can’t find you, where are you, I can’t find you.”
Now here is the lesson I have learned, the lesson about interpersonal skills. If I find them right away, just because I can, they are upset. It isn’t any fun for them to be found immediately; they like to indulge in the notion that they can fool the old man. But if I pretend too long not to be able to find them, if I stagger around the lawn wallowing in stupidity for too long, they cannot contain themselves. They snicker and they speak up and they even run out of their hiding places, because staying hidden is not fun either. It is a violation of their expectation that Grandpa will congratulate them on how well they have hidden. And waiting for the congratulation is just as unhappy as being found too soon. I have learned that “Hide and Seek” is not just a game of logic and observation; it is a measure of interpersonal skill. For we want to be found when we are hidden, but at the right moment, neither too soon nor too late.
It is always true that revealing what is hidden is not simply an intellectual exercise. It is always an interpersonal experience. Revealing what is hidden is not just about passing on information or solving problems; revealing what is hidden is about a relationship. And that, brothers and sisters, is what God does for us in Jesus Christ. God reveals, in Jesus, in a personal way, the depths of His mind and the intents of His heart. He does not simply provide information; He enfleshes Himself, He incarnates Himself, in Jesus of Nazareth. In Jesus we discover the truth hidden for the ages; and when we do, it is not just to satisfy intellectual curiosity, it is to redeem and restore our very lives. Revealing what is hidden is not just about information; it is about relationship, redemptive relationship, always personal.
The word “hidden” shows up in three places in the Letter to the Colossians. I want to take you to each of those three passages and show you how God is revealing to us what has been hidden for just the right time, and how, when He reveals what is hidden, it’s personal, intensely personal.
In the first of these passages, Paul links what has been hidden with his own imprisonment. He tells us that his own suffering has meaning because it teaches him that God is suffering for us – something hidden from sight before but now revealed in Jesus Christ.
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.