Spiritual Object Permanence

Do you ever feel like God is playing peek-a-boo in your life? Like you just saw Him, but now He seems to be hiding, just out of reach? I am working on my skill of spiritual object permanence.

Object permanence, if you are unfamiliar with that term, is a skill acquired in infancy and toddler-dom where little ones recognize that something is still present even if they cannot see it. Before this skill emerges, when you play peek-a-boo with a baby, they literally think you are disappearing and reappearing right in front of their eyes. That’s what makes the game fun for them. We laugh at littles and their simpleness — of course the ball is still there when placed under a blanket. Of course my face is still there just hidden behind my hands. Of course your blocks didn’t disappear by being put into a box. But though we scoff, adults aren’t much better at object permanence. We forget about things that aren’t front of mind and front of eyesight all the time. Clothes buried in our closets are forgotten. Food shoved behind the jug of milk is only discovered once expired. We rely on our senses and the direction and clarity of our gaze throughout life.

It is no different spiritually.

This week is Holy Week in the church calendar. Each day is filled with events in the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. And although all of them have meaning and importance, I find myself especially drawn to Saturday – the day of the week without a special name. I call it Silent Saturday. The day when the disciples and followers of Jesus, who gave their lives to His cause and teachings are lost without Him. Jesus has been crucified on Friday. Current readers know that Sunday is coming, but Jesus’ contemporaries likely felt abandoned on Saturday, their day flooded with grief and silence. Their King was killed. Their leader lost. Their Savior silenced. They longed for object permanence so they could know that His promises were not invalidated even by death the most drastic and permanent of events.

I often feel as though I am still developing my spiritual object permanence skill. It can feel as though God is playing peek-a-boo in my life just when I need Him most. When I await pathology results; He feels absent. As I anxiously stare at an unknown future; His voice is quiet. For the times that I lay on the floor and weep, crying out to Him for rescue and relief, I want Him to suddenly appear, and startle me by saying, “Peek-a-boo, I see you! I hear you. I know you. I love you.” I know somewhere in my soul that these sentences are true. I know He is the god who sees and hears (Genesis 16:13-14), I know he saves my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8) and that no pain is wasted. I know He loves me. So I keep searching — strengthening my spiritual object permanence by seeing Him behind that unexpected kindness, that unforeseen gift, that sermon that felt as if it was written just for me.

I have spiritual object permanence deficit disorder — but I can control where I look. Searching for meaning and steadiness and permanence, keeping my eyes turned toward the words of God and keeping my senses ready to see, hear, feel, and know that He has been here all along. That he will never leave or forsake His chosen (Hebrews 13:5). That He is permanent (Hebrews 13:8), whether my infantile senses can discern it or not.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Wow, awesome insight into the minds of the disciples and all of us who long for the physical sight of God. Love “silent Saturday”. Not just this week but whenever we face hard things which makes us long for God to be physically with us now, not just in eternity.

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