Where, but in the ministry, would you find a 50-something old man sitting in the dark under a table in the anteroom behind the chancel, playing a game of hide and seek with young teens at midnight? Yet there I was at a youth lock-in, listening to the amusing echoes of youngsters and adults at play in a cavernous church.
The room was pitch black, and I found my way into a space whose form I had memorized from previous visits. It was true and remained so—no one would find me there. I was safe. I could even take a nap if I wanted.
As I sat there, holding knees folded to chest, a single thread of light found its way from the sanctuary through the doorway, and spread its thin light in a cruciform shape along the tile floor, and shot its way unfailingly to my eye. My place in the utter darkness was illuminated with a steady and incredibly bright light, considering that it came from a dim emergency exit lamp a hundred feet away. I was astonished.
God does not usually find anyone at youth lock-ins. Things that are sublime and ineffable flee from such events. The most that one hopes for are fun and good fellowship, and these often come in full measure. But not revelation.
There I was, discovered by a cross-shaped light in my utter darkness, with the young people who were “it” not far off breaking the silence with their name-game, “Who are you? Tell us who you are, and we won’t catch you… this time. I don’t know who this is, but I know someone is there. Is it the red-haired girl? What’s her name? Who is it? Tell us and we won’t give you away.” (It was in actuality another fifty-something minister who remained anonymous until he could no longer restrain his laughter.)
It was a revelation. Not communicable on that night when minds glass over with sheets of youthful energy impenetrable by thought. Barely expressible even now, when I still wonder at the mystery of that moment. We can try, but we never can hide from the mystery.