After giving my daughter a bath, I spread a towel on the floor, lay her down on the towel, wrap her up in the towel, and playfully toss the corner of the towel over her face. While hiding under the towel, she starts to giggle and wiggle in anticipation. She gets her hands up to that corner of the towel and tosses it off of her face. She squeals and laughs as she enjoys the playful game of peekaboo! During a recent bout of peekaboo, I reflected on how we sometimes play peekaboo with God.
Psychologists tell us that newborn babies lack a sense of object permanence. If we play peekaboo with a newborn baby, they literally believe the world is popping in and out of existence as it goes in and out of their sight. Over time, as they play games like peekaboo, they eventually learn that the world is permanent. Even when hands or blankets or towels are covering their eyes, the world continues to persist even though they don't see it.
I wonder if sometimes we as adults lack a sense of God permanence, preferring instead a lively game of peekaboo with God. My daughter loves to throw the towel off her face, look up at me with twinkling smiling eyes, and giggle exuberantly! What does it look like when you peek out at God? Perhaps you joyfully sing in Church. You can listen to God speaking to you while reading Scripture. Maybe you sit peacefully in front of the monstrance during Eucharistic adoration. You could meditate while praying a rosary. Your thoughts may turn to God as you view a spectacular sunset. You might feel God's love as you experience the love of your spouse or children. You may see the face of Christ in the least of these as you serve the poor or disadvantaged. You recognize God's presence in your domestic church.
Then we pull the towel back over our face and God is out of sight and out of mind. What blinds you or distracts you from conscious awareness of God's presence? You may be distracted by games on your cell phone or by the television or by the radio. Perhaps God slips out of your mind as you catch up on the latest gossip at work or at school. God may be far from view when the alarm goes off on Sunday morning but you'd rather continue sleeping. You might hide from God while sitting in a dark room alone with your computer screen. You could cover your face while the bartender pours you another glass. You may struggle to remember God is there when you hear yet another story of suffering or oppression on your favorite news show. You can forget God's unfailing love when you lose your temper as the kids spill a full glass of milk on the floor again. God's voice may be drowned out by another screaming fight with your spouse or children. Your attention may be drawn by social media or your never empty email inbox. Maybe you've buried God under a long to-do list of work or home improvement projects. You recognize God's presence in your parish church on Sunday, but you don't notice his presence in your domestic church throughout the week.
If you're realizing that you've got the towel over your face and that you've allowed your sense of God's abiding presence to fade, then there is good news! Even when we can't see God, God still exists, and God can still see us! All you need to do is throw the towel off your face like the child giggling with glee as she shouts peekaboo. Just as parents are always present even when the child lacks object permanence, God is omnipresent even if you lack God permanence. The best way for the child to learn the parents are still there is to keep peeking out at the parents again and again. The best way for you to deepen your sense of God's constant presence is to keep bringing that presence to mind.
Lent is the perfect time to peek out from under the towel. When we are called to prayer, almsgiving, and fasting during Lent, we might consider fasting from the towel. We can fast from whatever we are using to cover our face, from whatever it is that is distracting us from an awareness of God's presence. If you haven't started fasting yet, you might consider a special fast for Holy Week. When you find yourself craving the thing you are fasting from, instead turn your eyes to God and shout peekaboo! Remind yourself that God is always present in your life, even when you are unaware of that presence. As you peek at God again and again, you may begin to develop a deeper sense of God permanence, a deeper sense of God's persistent abiding presence in your life.