I used to dream of playing hide and seek in a huge store such as Walmart after all its employees went home, but I never wanted to hide in Walmart indefinitely. Last month, a 14-year-old boy did attempt to hide out in Walmart in Corsicana, Texas, and succeeded for a remarkably long time.
CNN reports that the teen had been missing for 54 hours when Walmart called the police because an employee had spotted him coming out of his hiding place behind the baby strollers. The teen had stockpiled food, changes of clothes, a bed, a fish from the pet department—everything he needed to perpetuate concealment except a way to discreetly dispose of waste. After his disgusting hideout was discovered and he was returned to his family, the police reported that he had tried to run away several times in the past.
Notice several lessons available by making analogy to this story:
Many people are lost runaways in a sinful culture. I suppose most children make a playful, short-lived attempt to “run away from home,” but not every kid is serious enough about it to hide out for days on end. How challenging must this child’s home life have been? As we encounter lost souls who need the gospel, we must remember that their backgrounds may have been extremely difficult, and yet they still can be saved. For example, the Corinthian Christians were formerly sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers; these Christians, products of one of the most immoral cultures in history, were cleansed of their sins and on their way to heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Hiding from God is a terrible predicament. Just as the young man hiding in Wal-Mart was in a dire circumstance, anyone who hides from God is in the process of denying himself the true pleasures of life. We hide from God when we tell ourselves that serving God faithfully is not the best way to live, and then act accordingly. Man is made to seek God, not to run from Him. Solomon says, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Augustine prays, “[Y]ou have made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”1
Hiding from God never succeeds. Whenever I think of people attempting impossibly to hide from others, I remember Jonah, the only Old Testament prophet with a book bearing his name who was also unrighteous. He was so patriotic for Israel that he would even try to hide from God to avoid preaching to the enemy Assyrians (Jonah 1:1-3). But God condescended to play hide-and-seek with Jonah, and did not give up on him (Jonah 1:4-17). Eventually, Jonah had to give up his bid to hide from God and pray for salvation (Jonah 2:1-10). For lost humanity, the game eventually will be up, and everyone who has been trying to hide from God will surrender (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). He will no longer attempt to recover those who are hiding, but will punish them for their rebelliousness.
Will you stop hiding from God before He stops allowing you the opportunity to be found?
Confessions. Trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin. London: Penguin, 1961., 1.1; cf. David Lipe. Values in Thought and Action. Hester Publications ed. Henderson: Hester, 2001, 43-48. ↩