Playing Hide and Seek

woman s face behind the leaf close up photo
Photo by Luis Aquino on

When I was a child one of our favorite games to play was “Hide and Seek.”  I remember the rush of looking for a hiding place, the thrill of having people trying to find me while I hunkered down somewhere, wanting to be so cleverly hidden that I would “win” the game when they failed to find me. But I also wanted to be found in the end. The game would become bad if the seekers gave up, stopped calling and left me there, forgotten and lonely in my hiddenness.

I think it’s not uncommon for many of us to play this “game” unconsciously in adulthood. We get caught up in the tension between, on the one hand, wanting to be found, to be known, to be discovered and drawn out of our isolation, and on the other hand fearing to be too well known, exposed and vulnerable. So we draw boundaries around ourselves and remain hidden behind them. We want people to know us and our unique human story, but we don’t want them to know too much. We’d rather hide the parts of ourselves that we don’t like and can’t accept, the parts of our story that make us feel ashamed or vulnerable.

I know that this is one of my inner conflicts. I’ve played hide and seek my whole life. I’ve lived behind a wall, wanting someone to want to know me, yet feeling fiercely protective of my privacy. The thing I hate most is when people come crashing through my personal boundaries demanding to know more than I want to give. That alone can kill a relationship for me. Yet I have sometimes wanted someone to “crash the gates.” It’s a tug of war I’ve never been able to resolve. At least not fully, not yet.

Being a preacher, and now a writer, has brought this inner tug of war to the table because whatever I write (whether a blog, fiction, sermons, or even a prayer), I inevitably expose myself at some level. In my sermons I always felt like the words I ended up speaking were preaching to me as much as to the congregation. In my blog posts things that have rolled around inside me get clarified in a way I can’t miss.  Even in the stories I write some of my own experiences and feelings color what ends up on the page.

That’s why writing has sometimes been a challenge. It isn’t that I can’t find the words. Words just pour out of me. But they also reveal so much. The only words worth writing are those that express something true, truly believed, and truly felt. Anything less is inauthentic and produces a sense of disquiet in me; I can’t let them stand uncorrected. But once spoken or published, my truth is out there for others to react to, and that’s all a bit scary. Nevertheless, here I am, gradually giving myself away through my words.

So how does one overcome such ingrained, passionate attachment to self-protection? I believe it’s when we finally are able (i.e., free enough) to reach out beyond our fears to claim a full, honest life over a crippled one. I’m still working on it.

The First Duty of Love

listening heartHere in America we are going through a cultural crisis and severe partisan division. Our divisions are characterized by an extreme unwillingness to listen to anyone who doesn’t share our point of view.  We are doing more talking than listening, and our talk is going on in silos, so that all we hear is other people shouting at us from across a great distance. Continue reading “The First Duty of Love”

The Trouble With Lying


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Fake news. Alternative facts. Calling lies truth and truth lies. “Gas-lighting,” that tool that some use to diminish and control others (found especially in abusive marriages) is a particularly pernicious form of lying. How are we ever to sort out what to believe?

Simply put, the trouble with lying is that it’s destructive on so many levels. Continue reading “The Trouble With Lying”

Killing with Words


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Photo by Brigitte Tohm on

Why do so many of us tolerate or even applaud people who demean and belittle others? What is it in us that finds it amusing or even a little delicious when a clever put-down hits home in someone else’s life? Comedians, politicians, schoolyard bullies, clever show-offs, attention-seekers of all kinds, jealous siblings, frustrated parents do it, and we encourage them with silence or with applause, enabling the behavior.

I’ve always loved words and I think a lot about them. Continue reading “Killing with Words”

Why I Write

When I read the work of authors like Barbara Brown Taylor or Annie Dillard, I’m humbled. I wonder why I try to write at all when there are people with such luminous vision and clarity of expression already speaking to us, whose words are able to touch us deeply. I don’t want to add to the cacophony of shallow and empty words, clichés, and shibboleths that we are drowning in. I want somehow to speak in such a way that it can be healing just to read or hear it. Because I believe that only truth can heal us.

Even in thin layers, in small doses, truth heals.  It can wash through us like clear cool water or it can burn like fire, purging and cleansing us. It can cut like a knife through suffocating lies that strangle us, and set us free. True words may be hard to hear, even painful. But they‘re always in the end an instrument of healing. I long to write healing, inspiring words that help us to see ourselves and our world more deeply and may lead us to more hopeful living. I want to write far better than I know I do now.  That in itself is to live in hope. I hope because in spite of myself I dare to believe I have a call, as pastor Terri Macdowell Ott once wrote, “to love the world with words that matter.”

(This was first posted on March 23, 2014, and has been modified here.)


Dew drops close up

(c) vencav – Fotolia


What they undertook to do they brought to pass
All things hang like a drop of dew upon a blade of grass.
(William Butler Yeats)