I believe object permanence — or the lack thereof — is God’s gift to new parents.
Object permanence is that point (usually about 9 months) in a child’s development when she realizes that even though she may not be able to see something, it still exists. Right now, if Chloe has or wants something we don’t think she needs, we just hide it. To her it no longer exists, and she directs her attention to something else.
The Israelites experienced a similar lack of object permanence. As long as they could see evidence of God’s presence, they acknowledged his existence and followed him.
But let God be silent, let him not speak or show himself for a while, and they began to think God was no longer there. As a result, they would turn their attention to other (false) gods.
I used to get so frustrated with the Israelites. God led them out of Egypt, parted the waters of the Red Sea and defeated the Egyptian army. He provided them with food and water while they were in the wilderness. He revealed himself to them as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Yet after all this, something awful happened at Mount Sinai.
God called Moses up the mountain for the purpose of giving him the law. After 40 days and nights, the Israelites grew restless. They asked Aaron to make them a god, and he fashioned a golden calf.
The Israelites proclaimed, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt." Then they made sacrifices to the calf and had a feast in its honor (Exodus 32:4-6).
Talk about a slap in God’s face! After all he’s done for them, they’ve forgotten him, and are crediting a golden statue with their deliverance.
Let’s not be too hard on the Israelites, though. When you get right down to it, we’re not much different, are we? Even today, God’s people struggle with the object permanence problem.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re having a tough time. Because of your circumstances, you’re unable to see God’s presence.
In frustration (and perhaps a little anger) you ask, "Where are you, Lord? Don’t you see what’s happening? Don’t you care what I’m going through?"
You may then turn to other gods or idols such as your job, money or even yourself in an effort to reverse your circumstances.
This would be a horrible mistake. To rely on anything or anyone other than your heavenly father would be the worst thing you could possibly do.
Let me assure you of three things. First, God sees what is happening. Second, he does care. Third, he is there with you, whether you see him or not.
Scripture tells us he will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Object permanence is an important part of a child’s development. It’s an important part of a Christian’s development, too.
Whether you recognize it or not, God is there. He always has been. He always will be.
Parrish Myers is pastor of Pine Crest Baptist Church in Gainesville.