Have you ever been in this plight before—commissioned to pick up an international guest at the Mumbai airport at 2 a.m.? It’s not so much the time that I want you to empathize with me about, but the sheer task of spotting a face that you have never seen before, especially when you are myopic like me. You might well be thinking: why not simply use one of those good old placards? Well I did have one, an A4 sized, Times New Roman, uppercase, bold, 56 font sized “Guest Name.”
Even so, this was a guest whom I know not and who knows me not, a guest whom I’ve seen not and who’s seen me not, a guest whom I’ve heard not and who’s heard me not!
And if that doesn’t quite impress you, here’s one more detail that might surely be helpful: I take my missions quite seriously and could wait forever for my guest to arrive. And this I did, my eyes glued to that single exit door for a full three hours standing with placard in hand.
I did more.
I tried texting him, calling him. I should have known better. Message undelivered. Mobile switched off. I had even mailed him from the airport, my only hope that he would check his mail first thing on landing, which also failed. I finally called the hotel he was to check into (in case you underestimated my smartness at 2.15 am!). The enthusiastic front office attendant gave me the husky, heartwarming news that my guest had checked in at 1 am. I quietly slipped out and walked back to the car to meet my eager driver confused to see me walk back all alone without our esteemed guest. The driver was gracious as I narrated all that had transpired. For some reason he seemed to think that I was the hero in this whole drama and I didn’t want to refute it! I tipped him well that night to bury my embarrassment for the fact that I was the ‘ultimate loser’ in my mission.
Strange as it may seem, what troubled my Desi (Indian) mind was really the fact that we down here (on earth) have this tedious, uncanny predicament of waiting, spotting, and receiving, as it were, this most esteemed Cosmic Guest. Yes, I mean God, the one whose “spotting” is of such paramount, eternal, cosmic significance. Missing this One isn’t all that funny at all, but heart-rending to say the very least for all involved.
I wonder if this is precisely why the sages of old from my part of the world find it reasonable to draw comfort from and grant reassurance to the millions of sincere God spotters here. The scope and hope of finding the seemingly ‘un-findable’ leads many to favor pluralism (the philosophy that all ways lead to God) as a necessary part of the solution to this all-important pursuit of the Divine. To an eastern mind, the path to finding God should be myriad; to be fair to all, the finding is less important than that the one pursuing is sincere. It’s appalling to restrict the most defining pursuit of humanity within the narrow parameters of exclusivism. When it comes to spotting God, it seems so un-god-like and unhelpful for God to expect humans to find God on God’s own terms, the only way God wants to be known! Fair enough, so it seems, up to this point.
Perhaps such favoring of pluralism yields from an altruistic sympathy for humanity’s predicament, as we see it. But here is what we so often overlook. It’s not so much that we are crushed under the weight of this burden of finding God while God is playing hide-and-seek. Rather, it’s we who are constantly attempting to elude God while God is passionately pursuing us. The Cosmic Guest as it plays out is in fact The Real Host. Yet, we often go to great lengths, striving to avoid this divine date while sulking and pouting, kicking and crying that God is invisible, obscure, hidden, mysterious, and has not left enough fingerprints for us to spot.
It is one thing to ask ourselves if we have searched after God in all the right places; it is better to ask ourselves if we lay hidden when God comes looking for us, if we are turned the other way around in our hearts and minds—defiant, indignant, or indifferent. Clichéd as it may sound, the heart of the matter seems to be the matter of the heart. It is not so much ignorance, but non-preference or even indifference.
This Cosmic Spotter declared in Ezekiel “I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so I will seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them.”(1) If even today God is looking for you, would you be true to yourself and come out of your hideout, into the open? God sends his very own Son, the ultimate spotter, to find us as his very own.
Charles Premkumar is ministry associate at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Mumbai, India.
(1) Ezekiel 34:12.