Where are you? People often ask us this question, or we ask it of them. This is a common question in this day of mobile telephones. In the ‘good old days’ we knew exactly where people were when we phoned them. But these days, they could be anywhere.
Or when they want to know our position on issues of the day: where are you on the question of benefits for the out-of-work, or the Church and the environment, or Brexit, or sharing communion with those of other faiths etc…
It is also the kind of question someone might ask us when we seem distracted, or not paying attention. “Where are you, where did you go?” Maybe we have just lost track of where we are, who we are and where we should be going. Maybe we just plod along, very busy, very scattered by the rush and routine. Or maybe, like Adam, we are hiding out, afraid to face or deal with something that needs our attention.
So it is often an unsettling question… because sometimes we don’t know where we are, we don’t know how we’re feeling, or what our thoughts are on certain issues, or…. perhaps it’s because we don’t like how we’re feeling, and we’d prefer not to get in touch with it.
But it is vital that we are able to ask ourselves the question. To be able to name where we are, means having to ask, how did I get here?, Where have I come from? What choices brought me to this place? What patterns of behaviour or habits of thought have brought me to this present state?
Where are you? Is an important question for us. A question to ask ourselves, and also a question we allow God to ask us.
The sin against the Holy Spirit that Jesus speaks about in the Gospels is directly related to this question. Because the sin against the Holy Spirit is to try to flee from God, whether we do so knowingly and willingly, or if we deliberately choose to believe that we can hide some dimension of our being or life from God. It is to force God to ask “Where are you?”
It is to reject God’s presence in my life, and to reject His power to help me. The sin against the Holy Spirit is to try to flee from the face of God. Most of us who read this are genuinely seeking God in our lives… we long to see the face of God, to be in His presence, to feel His love in our lives. But if we are honest with ourselves we must acknowledge that we do in more subtle and unconscious ways try to hide from God. These are the moments when we don’t want thought of God and the teachings of Christ to interfere with how we go about living the moments of our daily life. When the values of the Gospel challenge our behaviour and the way we relate to others. When we believe that our problems are too great and our sorrows too deep for God to be of any help to us. We have all been there and know that sometimes our own darkness can so overwhelm us that we succumb to despair, and hopelessness begins to enter our lives. Perhaps these are the times when we need to allow God to ask us… Where are you, my child?
Or when we are overwhelmed by our failings and our weaknesses and our sins, and believe that we will never be able to change and that all our efforts have been useless. In these moments we turn from God and allow ourselves to settle for mediocrity; we no longer believe in the promises of Christ and give in to despair. These are the times when we need to reflect deeply on God’s question… Where are you?
Or we also subtly hide from God when we think we have everything sorted… we’ve got a handle on things and we know exactly what needs to be done in this particular situation, with no reference to God’s will and no thought of the values and teachings of Christ. We might unconsciously say: “no this is hard practical business here and we shouldn’t confuse the issue with spirituality.” Or, “this is a serious situation that calls for tough decisions and decisive action, and I am just the person to do it”. At these times we need to hear not only the question, Where are you?, but also the question, Where are you going?
It’s more than interesting that when Jesus was 12 and visiting Jerusalem with His parents Mary asks Him a similar question when they did not know where He was and finally found Him in the temple… “Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And we know well what his answer was. To find ourselves, we need to look for Jesus… and then be with Him where He is… and do what He is doing.
No matter where we are… how we’re feeling, whatever might be going on in our lives, whatever condition of mind or spirit we happen to be in, the Lord is always searching for us… often anxiously…. Because He loves us and wants to be with us, and wants us to want to be with Him. Allow the Lord to ask you today, where are you? And with the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding you, reflect deeply on your response.
My prayer for us when we are asked Where are you?, is that we are able to reply – “I am in my Father’s presence, trying with His grace to live His will in this moment.”