Where are you?

In that great original story of Genesis, God makes an extraordinary world, places extraordinary creatures in it, and crowns it with his greatest creation of all – human beings – calling them “very good.”  He tells us who we are – made to be in relationship, tasked with the care for all the world, invited to enjoy the paradise and expand it over the entire earth.  The grandest party of all…

…but soon we learn, it is not to last.  Humanity’s first family got suckered into the great lie – a lie about their very identity.  Thomas Merton once said that sin is a case of “mistaken identity concerning our very selves.”  Adam and Eve were offered a new car, a 10,000 square foot home with a pool, a lucrative book deal, their very own reality show…

…and they took it.  We know the rest of story.  Broken dreams.  Thwarted hopes.  Disappointment, suffering, even death.

A case of mistaken identity.  And we’ve lived this story ever since.

Yet, the words we hear from God as he looks for his beloved children in Genesis 3 are, “Where are you?”

Not a demanding, “Get your asses out here.”

Not an angry, “You’re in big trouble.”

Not some guilt-manipulating, “I can’t wait to tell you what you did wrong!”

No.  He says, “Where are you?”  A cry of love.

It’s the very thing we ask ourselves, at times.

I’ll find myself playing a thousand other roles, trying to please, attempting to justify myself, clamoring for approval, or pleasure, or significance, or influence…

…and God will eventually intrude, saying, “Where are you, Chuck?  Where did you go?  This isn’t like you.  Who have you become?  I love you, but I hardly recognize you.”

That’s the essence of sin, after all.  It’s not about some bad behavior.  It’s about losing our way, losing our bearings, losing our sense of identity – a case of “mistaken identity,” as Merton says.  And it happens so easily.

We’re sucked in to an enticing scheme to make some big money.

We’re offered a big job with lots of perks.

We’re enticed by the glance of an attractive person sitting across from us.

We’re energized by the angry energy that comes with feeling ‘right’.

We’re drawn into the animated emotional gravitational pull of a charismatic leader.

We’re crushed into submission by a vocally powerful person in our lives.

And God says, “Where are you?”

Which means, he’s looking for you.  That’s the good news, you see.  Because you feel as if you’re worthless, a sellout who has betrayed your first love.  But God pursues.  And pursues.  And pursues.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.”  Isaiah 30:18

Because he wants to know you. Not your false self.  Not your concocted version of an acceptable person.  Not your surgically-altered self.  Not your religiously adorned self.  Not your philanthropic sacrifice.  Not your doctrinally-settled self.  Not your emotionally high self.

No, he longs to know you. Can you imagine it?  Because the you that you know is not that impressive, right?  It’s average at best.  Quite unappealing.  Certain not to impress.  Lackluster.  Ordinary.  Insecure.

God sent his son not to save your false self.  Your false self spends its energy in self-justification, in an exhausting attempt to get it right.  It needs grace, but it is not you.

You are hiding.  You’ve found a safe place, or so it seems, behind the fig leaves of reputation and affluence, doctrinal certainty and activistic moralism, energetic pietism and self-sabotaging addiction.

And God is looking for you.  He’ll never stop.

Where are you?  He can’t wait to hear you say, “Right here.  Help me!  I’m here.  And I need you, more than I’ve ever known.”

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