One scorching morning in August, several years ago, I visited a church with my young nephew. When we stepped inside, because of the drop in temperature, I felt as if we'd plunged into an underground cave. The smell of burnt incense still hung in the air, and a few people who were still kneeling were getting up to leave.
My nephew looked around smiling as if he were inside a candy shop.
"Uncle, close your eyes and count to one hundred." Said my nephew pulling my hand to get my attention.
"We can't play 'Hide and Seek' here." I said.
"Why not?" he asked.
"There are not enough places in which to hide." I lied.
"Why is everybody whispering?" asked my nephew not entirely convinced by my answer.
"We are inside the house of God, and we need to be quiet." I said almost automatically.
After a few seconds, he escaped my grip and ran off. He cupped his hands around his mouth and began shouting, "God? God? Where are you? Come out!", while checking inside the confessional, behind the altar, and beyond the choir stalls.
People looked on in horror. Their mouths and nose contorted in disgust and disapproval. The priest's eyes murdered me on the spot, while he gestured for me to take my nephew out of the church. Immediately.
I caught up with my nephew, grabbed him by the hand, and stepped out into the midday sun. As the heat hit us again, he looked up at me, and asked "Uncle, if it's God's home, why didn't he come out? Was he hiding?"
"No, he wasn't hiding. God doesn't hide. Sometimes, God is not home, that's all." I answered.
This seemed to satisfy him but, for the rest of the day, I couldn't get that phrase out of my mind. And I hated myself for having said it.