One way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but cannot be found there. – Henri Nouwen
Adam and Eve have just eaten of the tree that God has commanded them not to eat of—perhaps the most disruptive moment in the history of humankind (Genesis 3:1-10). The story goes on to say that their “eyes were opened” and they became “ashamed of their nakedness.” Then Adam and Eve hear God enter the Garden and immediately they hide in the trees. God calls out to Adam, “Where are you?”
Now what is God asking? Has God lost track of Eve and Adam?
This is not in any literal sense a question of geography, but rather a question of relationship. Embedded in God’s question is an invitation to companionship not a demand for GPS coordinates.
One writer suggests that God asks the question not because God is unclear about where Adam is, but because Adam is unclear where Adam is. There are great consequences surrounding this garden encounter but there is also so much kindness. God’s “Where are you?” is something of an equivalent to Jesus’ “Come to me all you that are weary….” (Matthew 11: 28).
You don’t have to hide…
Thomas Keating writes,
This marvelous story of creation is not just about Adam and Eve. It is really about us. It is a revelation of where we are. The same question is addressed to every generation, time, and person. At every moment of our lives, God is asking us, “Where are you? Why are you hiding?”
We too get lost; we become frustrated; we hide; we pretend; we despair; we rebel; we become distracted; we avoid; we seek to survive on our own.
And God continues to reach out to us — Where are you? You don’t need to hide. He wants to be with us in ways that let us honestly face our condition and responsibility, and embrace his kind companionship and leadership.
If we are to turn our hearts, again and again, toward God, “Where are you?” is an important question with which to involve ourselves. And life upon life with other disciples is the place where we will most often learn to notice God reaching out, inquiring about our whereabouts.
A friend’s “What are thinking about?” or a teacher’s “Where are you at?” or a counselor’s “Tell me how you are today?” have all been ways I have bumped into the Spirit’s deep interest in me, patiently drawing me out of hiding. I have never found my way out of “the trees” on my own.
We each need safe places—friendships, spiritual directors and mentors, leadership teams and small groups—to help us discover where we are and encounter the Lord’s face already turned toward us in love and kindness.
May our friendships with one another be places where we find the compassion, courage, and patience to hear and respond to God’s kind “Where are you?” within the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives.