Tonight, we celebrated one our kids’ birthdays at the bastion of birthday fun for kids and aggravated tinnitus for parents, Chuck E. Cheese! Where a kid can be a kid and an adult can easily spend $100 on tokens if you aren’t careful. One of my brothers calls it his yearly gambling fix. In fact, both of my brothers and my sisters-in-law are game winning fiends… their token to ticket ratios are through the roof and our kids walk away with half the prize wall after the uncles and aunts clean up on everything from arcade favorites like Skeeball to the weird Gorilla game where you try to hold on to handles that make you feel like you’re getting a shock in the hands. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.
While I was supervising our youngest on a noisy, coin-operated ride, a series of events happened to catch my eye. At the game next to us, a kid had just placed a token and began playing. He won four or five tickets before his mom interrupted the game by calling him back to their table to get something. As the boy ran to the table leaving his tickets behind, a girl (who was clearly NOT related to him) cautiously approached the game glancing around to see who was looking. I popped another token into my kid’s ride to get more time to watch this play out. She continued to glance around suspiciously and put her hands on the controls of the game. After maybe five or ten seconds of pretending to play the game, she glanced around again, grabbed the tickets, and darted off. I seriously considered chasing her down to let her know that no matter what she thought at the time, someone WAS looking when she stole the tickets from the other kid, but my train of thought was broken by a “Daddy, ‘peas’ ‘hehp’ me” and a little one attempting to disembark a moving train (granted, the train was only moving back and forth, but still…). When I looked back up, the girl was long gone in a sea of noise, lights, screaming kids, frazzled parents, annoyed teen-aged employees and a giant mascot rat with a New Jersey accent making his rounds among the birthday reservations.
While I was walking back to our table to grab another slice of pizza, I was reminded of the closing passage in Ecclesiastes 12:14 that says “… God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” I thought about how often I have been like that little girl in my own life… sneaking around, making sure no one was looking, doing things in secret that I knew were wrong but thinking I was getting away with it, and investing my ill-gotten gain on more vices… either totally oblivious to or completely ignoring the fact that God was watching. Not simply the idea that God was around somewhere or that God might see what was going on if He chose to… but that God was actually there, in the middle of it, seeing everything… maybe even seeing some things I didn’t notice (like, maybe, the myriad of ways He was protecting me from worse consequences?).
A popular saying goes something along the lines of this: Your integrity is measured by who you are when no one is looking.
The only problem with that sentiment is that there is never a moment in your life or in my life when “no one is looking.” If we take the verse in Ecclesiastes along with other passages in Scripture seriously, we are constantly under the careful and watchful eyes of God. He observes the good and sees the bad. Nothing is hidden from Him. Even if you think you have everyone else in your life fooled, or you’ve gone to great lengths and developed perfect systems to keep that incongruent lifestyle choice, behavior, or relationship under wraps, there is always Someone who is intimately aware of all of it.
I am sad that one little girl went home tonight thinking she got away with stealing another boy’s tickets without being noticed. But on the flip side, it was good for a young pastor to be reminded that he can’t get away with sin without God noticing. And the pizza wasn’t half bad, either.