Is God Hiding, Or Are You?
When I was a kid I remember sitting in Sunday School and being taught the story of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis in the Bible.
I always felt sorry for them---about the way things turned out for them after everything with the Serpent and all. It felt like an overly harsh judgment considering they were duped.
But the most poignant moment in the story for my young self was when God comes looking for them, and Adam and Eve hide because they are naked and ashamed.
I remember feeling sad as God went about the Garden calling out, "Where are you?"
I didn't really understand why I felt sad then, but over time I've had some insight. My young self was actually in touch with a universal truth that is embedded in that story from Genesis.
Most of the time when we feel like God is far away, or distant from us... we're the ones who are actually hiding.
Henri Nouwen once wrote this, which speaks right into what I was pondering:
I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out and making it as difficult as possible for me to find him, but, instead, as the one who is looking for me while I am doing the hiding.
What if all of those moments in our life where we thought that God had abandoned us, left us to twist in the wind, wasn't around, or wasn't paying attention...
What if all of those moments of angst were simply due to the fact that we were doing everything we could to keep from being discovered?
I've written here before about how God is always calling out to us...
I struggle sometimes to hear that Voice, to be honest, but I still trust that it's there speaking over me. I trust that the Voice of God is saying my name, declaring me "Beloved," calling me to Godself... wondering where I went--even though that doesn't seem possible.
Maybe God asks "Where are you?" for our own sake.
Maybe that question is reserved for the deepest part of us that has run away, hidden for shame, and really just wants to be found.
Maybe the act of standing up from behind the bushes we've used to shield us from the Divine gaze, and saying, "Here I am," is what we secretly wish for.
Because then all of the running and hiding can finally end. Then we can finally see where God has been all along and can realize the amount of grace that is available to cover up all of our shame, and that there is more than enough love, acceptance, and mercy.
That's the truest part of the story for me.
The judgment part of the story where God expels Adam and Eve seems like it was added as commentary by someone who viewed God in a clouded and terrible way.
Honestly, that's an important addition to acknowledge. Because the stories that unfold in those first moments of the book of Genesis are not just there to explain away how the world came to be.
They show how the more things change, the more they stay the same. We still fall into the same patterns, we make the same choices, give in to the same foolish pride... and then we hide.
It's almost like we've been projecting our own shame and dread onto God since the beginning of everything.
Maybe it's time to stand up at last, and let the shame fall away. To say "Here I am," and know that the God who calls for you does so out of love, and there is nothing we have done or could do to be separated from that love.
May it be so today and every day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.