Curt Harlow tells a powerful story.
Years ago, he made a quick stop at Walmart to buy some cat food for the feline at home. He had his eight-year-old (Jesse) and three-year-old (Maddy) in toe, and sent them up the cat food aisle while he made a brief detour to another aisle for something else he needed.
When Curt came around the corner there was Jesse holding the cat food (per the instructions), but no sign of Maddy. Every parent can imagine the heart-skip that happens. Where’s the three-year-old? Trying to maintain his composure Curt called out (loudly): “Maddy Harlow! Maddy Harlow!”
She was gone.
Fifteen minutes passed! With each passing minute, Curt had grown increasingly frantic. Store personnel were looking everywhere for Maddy. Finally, a store employee came walking towards Curt, holding the little girl’s hand. He had found her hiding behind ride-on mowers in the garden section.
Immediately, her brother Jesse ran to her and hugged her. Then Curt whisked her up and held her tightly.
“Where have you been?” he asked.
“I was hiding,” she said.
“Because I didn’t go down the cat food aisle. I went to look at Barbie dolls and then I knew that you’d be angry. And I could hear your voice, but I was afraid!”
As Curt relayed the story to us, he concluded: “It’s easy to mistake urgency for anger!”
Perhaps that’s what happened in the Garden of Eden, as the Lord called out “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) and Adam and Eve hid themselves. Perhaps that’s what continues to happen all too often in our own lives.
Advent (this Christmas season) declares that Christ has come to us, seeking us. Sometimes we are plain lost. Other times we may be hiding, ashamed and afraid of the voice. But He comes to us with urgency, not anger. We may have strayed down the wrong aisle, and then felt we needed to hide behind the ride-ons, but the desire of the Father is simply to hold us and never lose us.
Historically, these early weeks of Advent (literally “the coming”) focus on the darkness of the world and our desperate need for a Savior. The dark places where we have fallen or hidden are never the places of freedom. If you feel gripped by guilt, shame, or fear, the message of Christmas is one of grace … and God’s relentless search for you.
Perhaps it’s time to step out from the garden section and back into the arms of the Father.