One Saturday morning, Neil was in charge at home while I went to the store. The baby was sleeping and Gina was visiting a friend’s house, so all he had to do was entertain four-year old Jacquelyn. I had the harder job. The grocery list was long, the store was crowded, and by the time I got home I was cranky.
I found Neil on the patio chatting with a neighbor. “Where is Jackie?”
“I think she’s in the living room,” he said, completely unconcerned she wasn’t planted at his feet.
Annoyed, I dragged in the first bags of groceries and called her. No answer. She wasn’t in the living room, so I went upstairs, the dog tagging along playfully beside me as if he knew a secret. She was not in her room, nor was she in either of her sisters’ rooms.
I wasn’t worried; I just didn’t want to play hide and seek right then. I don’t have time for this, I thought, as I traipsed back down stairs wondering if the ice cream was still in the car.
“She’s not in the living room or upstairs; any other ideas?” I called out to the patio, which translated means, “I need help finding Jackie and putting these groceries away.”
“Try the closets,” Neil called back, completely missing the message. “I’m kind of busy here. You don’t need me to come get her, do you?”
“No, no, I’ll do it,” I answered in my best martyr voice.
Irritated with them both now, I searched the house while the groceries sat untouched on the kitchen counter. I checked the laundry closet, the coat closet, the pantry closet, and the bedroom closets – calling her name louder and louder as I became more and more angry.
Neil could hear the escalating pitch and volume of my voice from the patio, and finally came in to help. “Col, I was sitting outside for five minutes. The front door is locked so she can’t have gone anywhere. She’s probably not coming out because you’re yelling at her.”
He repeated the same search, calling out as he went, “Good one, Jackie, you fooled us! Now come on out.” His beckoning was gentler than mine, but the result was the same. No Jackie.
Blame and anger suddenly evaporated as terror hit us both. We unlocked the front door and ran outside, desperately calling her name. I ran to the end of our property; Neil ran to the closest house. Our visiting neighbor drove up and down our road. The dog ran around too, not sure what the problem was, but recognizing something was seriously wrong.
After about a half hour of frantic searching, it was time to call the police. The cordless phone was in the bedroom, and while Neil dialed 911, I plopped down on the bed. What should have been a mound of soft pillows against the headboard felt strangely hard and bumpy.
I threw aside the decorative pile and found Jackie sleeping soundly underneath it, wedged way up under the headboard. I pulled her out, but even in the midst of our joyous shouts and whistles, she was slow to wake up. She stretched and twisted and smiled and finally said, “Hi there.”
With relief and laughter we tickled and hugged our missing child, who was completely unaware of the drama that had occurred.
I’ve been thinking about that day a lot lately. Jackie didn’t mean to cause any trouble. She just wanted to play hide and seek with Neil, and fell asleep in the cozy, dark comfort under that mound of pillows. She never heard us call her name and missed what was going on around her.
I think we all do that sometimes. We hide at first in our anger or fear or grief, and after a while we fall asleep there. We stay in our cozy, dark comfort zones and miss the blessings all around us.
So maybe this is a reminder to throw off those pillows we’re hiding under, to come out from that dark place, and to listen for the sound of our names. We might not hear the dramatic, loud voices of people who love us, but, even better, we might hear the gentle whisper of God. We might not have two crazy parents right there cheering for us, but God will be. He’ll be quieter, but no less loving. Let’s listen.