Where Are You?: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
When Adam fell and tried to hide himself in the garden, God made the first move in redemption. He sought out Adam. He asked the question, “Where are you?”. Now God knew perfectly well where Adam was and he knew what he was trying to do. Yet, even so, God made the first move.
These days, at least in my life, I feel like I spend a good bit of time asking God that very same question, “Where are you?”. I see what’s happening in the Church and I ask, “Where are you?”. I hear about another school shooting and I ask, “Where are you?”. I see close friends in pain, or distress, or under financial pressure and even as I pray for them, I want to ask God, “Where are you?”.
I now sometimes think that it is God who is hiding.
Perhaps it is owing to my own lack of faith or vision that God seems hidden. An idol, made of stone or wood, can be seen, but I know that the idol is not God. A mechanistic faith of “I do this, and God has to do that”, may, indeed, be similar to idolatry in that it bends God to our own will, our own desires, in order to see our own predetermined preferred outcome. Maybe we’re not always meant to see, or, perhaps, God is hiding himself. The sight of God, it seems, may simply too much for us. Moreover, in most situations, God does not place himself on display. He does not present himself in a dazzling vision to overwhelm us or to compel us. Yet, God does make himself known to us, not to be merely observed or to prove his existence, but to be discovered in his “hiddenness”. God invites us to find him. He beckons us to discover him. He chooses to make himself known to any and all who have the least disposition or desire to consider him. “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find…”
So, we set off as believers on a journey of discovery, a pilgrimage of grace. Yet, even as we take our first stumbling step, it is God who beckons us and invites us toward himself. Each step of the journey is marked by saying yes to him and responding to God in every situation where he makes himself known in even the smallest manner. If we keep on that journey, we may find those places where God has chosen to hide. Yes, God may hide himself owing to his absolute holiness, his inscrutable mystery, his all consuming fire of love. For those on this journey, however, I believe God hides himself in places and persons where he may be found.
“Where are you?”
He can hide in a chord of music, that only one can hear. He can hide in a painting that only one can see. He can hide in a cup of cold water offered to one perishing of thirst. He can hide in a friend or neighbor performing an act of kindness. He can hide in the homeless person beneath a viaduct in a cardboard box. He can hide in a refugee on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence. He can hide in the bright eyes of a newborn child or in the failing vision of a parent in a nursing home. In all these persons and places, God waits to be found.
Now, I can already hear the objections to finding God hidden in these “ordinary” circumstances.
Yet, we might do well to consider those supreme ways in which God makes himself known to us. God hides in a baby in a manger in Bethlehem and is only discovered to be there by some shepherds who were tending their flocks. God hides in a man dying on a cross outside the walls of a provincial Roman city, with only a few women and a young man knowing the truth of what was happening. He hides himself in a piece of bread given and wine outpoured. He hides not to obscure himself. He hides because only he who hides can make himself known.
So, yes, I still want to ask the question, “Where are you?” in regard to the Church, to friends, to pain, to suffering and tragedies. The answer, however, is more straightforward than I might wish. In each situation, God is there, hidden perhaps, but prepared to make himself known – to me, and to those for whom I pray. “To see God in all things” was a favorite phrase of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. It is also a challenge and, perhaps, a mission, for every person of faith who has accepted the invitation to take this journey.