Sometimes I wonder if I have object permanence problems. Object permanence is where if something isn’t seen you know it still exists. I came home yesterday and sat my keys on the table. Later when I went to go out, I couldn’t find my keys. They weren’t where I put them. My wife picked up a piece of paper that was covering my keys. All of a sudden my keys popped back into reality and existed.
Babies under a certain age don’t have object permanence. In other words, they think that because they don’t see something or someone it no longer exists in reality. This can be scary at times for them when I parent leaves a room. But after a while they learn the fun of it with games like peekaboo. In fact, that’s why infants love peekaboo so much. It’s this awesome magical thing where the person’s face disappears and then reappears over and over again.
There are times where I think we struggle with object permanence in our faith. God is here. God is real. God is active. Jesus is here. Jesus is active. The Holy spirit is here. The Holy Spirit is real. The Holy Spirit is active. One God, three in one. Awesome-hard-to-explain stuff but it’s there. And it happens.
Yet we seem to forget this at times. It seems for many followers of Jesus, our faith is not based on this reality of God’s existence, presence, and activeness through Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Instead, it seems to be based on what we think we see and know.
The object permanence problem of faith happens when we don’t think we see God at work or moving. Usually this is based upon our own definition of how God should work and move. When we don’t see things turning out the way we want them too, we think God may not be listening or even there.
When things are going well, we think that it’s all based upon what we have been doing, or that God has just placed things just right for us to be happy. And we forget about the things God calls us to do in Jesus’ name. Other times, we play a cosmic spiritual game of peekaboo with God. We wait for him to reappear when we want him or think we need him. And then we wait for him to reveal Himself to us. When this doesn’t happen the way we think it ought, then God’s care, love, and even existence becomes in question.
We can so easily fall into the problem of a lack of object permanence in our faith journey. Sometimes it just happens. We don’t mean it to happen. We get busy. Out of sight, out of mind. Then all of a sudden we wonder where Jesus is. We wonder what happened to God. We wonder if He’s moving by the Holy Spirit. Out of sight, out of mind, it no longer exists nor is important to us anymore. It’s a trap even I’ve fallen into in the past.
The thing about infants and object permanence is that their brains begin to form more and mature. Soon they begin to understand that when things disappear from their sight, they still exist. But it takes maturity, experience, and formation for it to happen this way.
For followers of Jesus, the same thing is true. In order to begin to trust that Jesus will always be with us; to begin to understand that even though we don’t always see the Holy Spirit moving, we know He is; to begin to know that God the Father truly cares and is working in our lives, we need to have an object permanence in our faith. This then involves being willing to mature, to grow, and to have our faith be formed and shaped.
The problem is that it’s a lot easier to stay where we’re at. It’s easier to not do anything. We wouldn’t expect an infant to remain and infant forever. We want an infant to grow and mature and learn and become a mature adult (hopefully not moving back home after college). The same is true as followers of Jesus. We are to grow, mature, be formed in our faith and learn so that we too might mature in Jesus. It begins with being willing to grow and mature.
So, do you have an object permanence faith or are you still wondering if God is active? Trust. Be willing to grow and mature in the faith. And you will see God on the move and at work by His Holy Spirit.