My grandson Austin is now 8 months old, and he is starting to learn and enjoy the game of peek-a-boo. He especially enjoys the anticipation of that childhood game. Just last week when we visited him, I would hold Austin and Marsha would peek around my shoulders to surprise Austin. It did not take him long to catch on, and he even began to look for Marsha before she actually appeared over my other shoulder.
Some child development experts believe that this simple game for children is an important part of their development. Children need to learn, they say, about “object permanence” – meaning that small children have to learn that things and people do not cease to exist just because the child cannot see them. Playing peek-a-boo helps a small child to learn to trust – to trust that the world exists, to trust people to come back to them, and to trust that what they cannot see any given moment is still real.
Austin is already applying this game to his life. We watched him watch his mother when she left the room – looking carefully in the direction she left, waiting in anticipation for her return, and then greeting her with a big smile. Trust has to be learned, and of course that is why it is so sad that some children grow up without adults who are trustworthy.
I drove home from visiting Austin and reflected on this simple childhood game of peek-a-boo. I found myself thinking about why it is that so many adults seem unable to believe in God just because they cannot see God or prove God’s existence. Could it be that these persons never learned the basic trust which comes from playing peek-a-boo? Could it be that a lack of trust in what we cannot see or prove is typical of those who missed this most basic childhood lesson of trust?
God is real, even when we do not fully experience God’s presence at any given moment. Real faith is based upon trusting God during the tough times, when things are not easy, and when God may even seem distant. Even a child can learn to trust that the one who loves us will return, will be there for us, and will hold us once again.
During this season of Lent, we read in the Gospels about how the disciples had to learn to trust Jesus. During his ministry Jesus was constantly surprising them, coming to them on the water, surprising them like a ghost, and sending them out to share the Good News on their own, before calling them back together to be strengthened by his presence. Even after Easter, Jesus would appear to them intermittently. Why? Perhaps they needed to learn to trust Jesus even when they could not see him. Perhaps Jesus knew that they would need a deeper, trusting faith to help them endure life without him. Maybe that is why Jesus said to Thomas, “You have believed because you see me, blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.”
May we all be strengthened by that kind of peek-a-boo faith.