Bunny Hunt

“Where’s the bunny, Benjamin?” I asked our almost two-year old grandson. He grinned slyly. He knew, of course, where the little toy bunny was hiding. He had just seen Grandma slip bunny under her summer robe. But… Hurray! Hurray! The search game was on! He and Grandma lifted the bell-pull hanging on the kitchen wall. “Bunny not there,” he solemnly announced.

“Is bunny in your pocket, Ben?” We looked. “Nope! Bunny not there.”

Behind the refrigerator? Under Ben’s bib? “Nope! Nope!”–each yelp a little more gleeful.

“Could bunny be hiding under Grandma’s robe?” A pause of wonder, and then, “Oh, there he is!” A giggle and then Ben quickly stuffed bunny back under Grandma’s robe and immediately reached for the bell-pull. Time to start the hunt all over again!

A short while later I sat quietly in my study, savoring the charm of the morning’s bunny hunt. On my little corner table several candles burned. The sadlypenetrating eyes of Mary gazed at me from the icon of the Virgin of Vladimir, inviting me into a holy space of quiet reflection.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, if God could be found as easily as Benjamin’s bunny? Wonderful if we could but lift the hem of God’s garment and catch–if only fleetingly–a glimpse of the glory that exists, as the hymn sings, “in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.”

Of course it would be wonderful. But such epiphanies are rare in this life, and in most of our hours, most of our days, we are lifting the bell-pull and searching our pockets for that reassuring sense that God–though hidden–really is and will one day be seen and found in all the majesty and mystery of God’s being.

Can our search be as gleeful as little Ben’s bunny search? Probably not. Life is often too harsh, too painful, and we find ourselves groping only blindly and haltingly for the God whose elusiveness echoes through the emptiness of our days. The cry of the psalmist of old becomes our cry, “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?”

The saints of all ages have often sung this doleful refrain. The hunt for God, it seems, has seldom, if ever, been easy–has seldom, if ever, been gleeful. Nevertheless, in the midst of the pain, the darkness, the mystery, the hunt has always gone on. The saints have persisted.

Julian of Norwich is one of those saints. As an anchoress in fourteenth century England, Julian listened to the sufferings and perplexities of those who came to seek her consolation and counsel. Then, in the isolation of her enclosure, as she held these sufferings in her heart, she searched. She searched through the scriptures. She searched through her experience. She searched through the experiences of others. She searched for the One who alone could heal and restore wholeness to the broken world she saw all around her.

Julian’s search was profound and prolonged, and she was rewarded with only a few brief epiphanies. Yet throughout her lifelong quest, a spark of hope enabled her to hunt for God with some of the same joy that shone in the face of our little Ben as he hunted for the bunny. For Julian believed, she really believed, that one day God would be fully found and that in that day, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Perhaps we can continue our search with Julian’s assurance tucked into the pockets of our souls. We continue with the hope that when we reach the end of our quest, by God’s grace, the doleful refrain of the psalmist will be replaced with the words of this hymn penned by an anonymous seeker of God:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew

He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;

It was not I that found, O Savior true;

No, I was found of thee.

Carol Westphal is a retired minister in the Reformed Church in America.