Genesis 3:9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
This query rings down through the millennia to every one of us, the quintessential spiritual question: “Where are you?” If I asked myself this more often, looked around and became aware of where I am and why, I would catch myself before wandering too far down that dark alley. I don’t notice the light is dimming and the air becoming stale. I don’t hear the harshness creeping into my voice or notice my thoughts turning fearful and angry. Or maybe I see it, but only casually, like I might notice a dog sleeping in a doorway rather than one growling with bared teeth. I miss the danger.
Where are you right now? What is filling your heart and mind? What are you feeling towards that driver or clerk, classmate or spouse? Towards yourself? Stop and take a look around, connect to your heart honestly and graciously, consider where your present trajectory is taking you. Where are you?
Being honest about our failings is the first step in recovery, but we should never equate self-shaming with honesty. Withholding love because of behavior is ungracious and therefore ungodly whether that compassion is directed towards ourselves or others. God’s love never wavers, regardless of our bad behavior.
If we fall into self-castigation, we are very likely to see God as a scold instead of a forgiver. When he calls out, “Where are you?” we will respond with fear rather than trust, making us less likely to come to him or open up to him fully. We will grovel or promise improvement to win back his acceptance, but buying his forgiveness like this always leads away from grace into legalism. In our minds we will tear apart his holiness and his love and pit one against the other, supposing that holiness trumps love, or we will distort the meaning of love to accommodate our perceptions of holiness and so misunderstand both attributes. “Where are you?” is the call of the Rescuer to the lost. It is always in love that God seeks for us.