This week I sat in a small classroom in the midst of ten students who were listening to their teacher go over their lesson for the week. With lesson books on their laps and pencils in hand they appeared absolutely willing to learn and participate. Heads up, eyes on the teacher, attentive.
Until the teacher asked a question, and paused for answers.
Down went the heads, pencils were squeezed in terror, movement ceased, and breathing paused. Stillness. The teacher's caustic eyes slowly scanned the cranium of each kid. "Well?"
Seriously, do kids really believe that invisibility occurs if they look to their laps and hold their breath in such situations? Apparently so, because, as we can attest, we've attempted the same thing over and over again, in classrooms all over the world. Some kid somewhere must have achieved transparency because we all retain hope!
It's easy. Hide your eyes. Pretend you are otherwise occupied in a studious endeavor. Fake thoughtfulness, ummmmmm......"Please please please..... do NOT pick me!" chants your silent inner voice.
Why? Why not answer the question? Because we didn't do our lesson and don't know the answer? Because we are afraid we'll look stupid, or worse, like a geek for having an answer?
It got me to thinking. Don't we adult human beings do sort of the same thing when it comes to God? We, who claim to be believers in Jesus Christ, know that we live in a broken world, that we ourselves are broken, and that there is much reason to seek spiritual understanding. Yet, when we think about God's penetrating gaze upon us, we freeze, we look down, we dummy-up hoping to keep God's eyes off of us. Why?
"Busy now, God. Maybe later," is one excuse for no response.
By that we may mean that we will be busy putting him on hold for most of our lives until we experience fear when facing our mortality at which time we'll expect him to comfort us with soothing thoughts of heaven and a pain free afterlife.
Or maybe we will keep busy learning ABOUT the truth, without ever acknowledging that our lives are to be lived in the light of it. The ability to converse about God may convince us that we are his. "Just, God, don't ask anything of me. I'm busy learning about you. Don't look at me. You make me nervous."
Or maybe, just maybe we misunderstand that penetrating gaze. We think it actually does somehow miss us. Yes, it flashes right past us onto our neighbors! Thus we spend our lives ministering to our neighbors, revealing to them their sins, teaching them 'a way', when in actuality, we may be more lost than they. The blind leading the blind. "I'm busy serving you, God. I'll deflect that stern questioning look of yours. I'm sure it's meant for someone else. I'm already saved."
For God's children it is a fearsome thing to come under the gaze of the almighty God. We cringe and shrink in shame when his holiness is viewed through our sinful eyes. But we know that working out our salvation with fear and trembling requires regular inspection. And answers. For growth to continue we must look up. Avoidance will not do. Thankfully, the Father's gaze is coupled with irresistible goodness which compels true believers to lift their faces in sober response to their uncompromising Creator, no matter how unsettling the experience.
Oh, for lifelong courage to meet his gaze, to experience the hurt of the Truth as well as the relief.
"Stare on, oh loving God, your disintegrating stare. In you lie all hope and meaning."