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“Where Are You?”

by on June 2, 2016

Once again Fr. Thomas Keating has invited me to see something entirely different in the Bible simply by changing how I look at it. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobey God’s command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the center of the Garden. When they do, they hide from God for the first time, and God comes in his customary way  but not finding them, asks, “Where are you?”

Traditionally I have always attributed their motivation as fear–fear of being punished for their disobedience. Keating says it is the pain of their separation from God that has driven them “into the Woods” (a phrase wonderfully resonant with Sondheim’s brilliant musical by that title).

“Where are you” is a question of relativity. We can answer the question only in relation to some point of reference. It is a positioning question, a question of identity. It is a question of generative quality. “Where am I . . .”

  • in relation to God? Am I hiding? Running away? Avoiding? Denying? Am I resting? Am I at peace? And what is the emotional motivation for where I am? Is it fear? Pain? Confusion? Love? Gratitude?
  • in relation to others? Am I competing? Comparing? Critiquing? (See Covey’s Seven Habits here.) Again, am I hiding? Avoidant? Am I collaborative? Generous? Vulnerable? And again here, what are the emotional motivations for where I am?
  • in relation to myself? Keating says “Where are you” is the question which begins the spiritual quest–the quest for God which is also the quest for ourselves (echos of Calvin’s introduction to the Institutes here). So am I hiding from myself, just as I hide from God? Am I avoiding the true self–imaged of God in Creation, revealed by Christ, being redeemed in the Holy Spirit? Am I hopeful for this self? Or do I despair its loss?
  • in relation to where I thought I would be? Or where I want to be? Am I even aware of these anymore? Has all my hiding and avoiding stolen from me the dreams I had as a younger person–the dreams God has for me today?

“Where are you?” it is important to note, is really not a question of “where am I?” which is a self-determining question. “Where am I?” could be easily asked of oneself and come out of a self-help book. But “Where are you?” is a question asked of us from an Other. At its source is the assumption that where we are is relative to the One asking. So it isn’t enough to contemplate where we are relative to others, self, or intention, but where we are relative to God. This is the fundamental question, and it is also the fundamental answer. The question contains the answer.

Before I saw the question as a threat. In fact, the question is a call, an invitation, a beckoning. It is a journey, a quest, a return home. And I want to go home. That’s were I want to be.

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