everywhere or nowhere

“If You are not everywhere, You are nowhere.”

It is a sense both of deeper loss and even deeper homecoming—no matter what we leave or lose or walk away from, no matter how far we go, the belonging is always deeper, always further, always ahead of us. 

I recently told a friend, “I’m not a good person. I’m not doing the right things in order to experience God. And yet the most beautiful thing is that he’s still here. He won’t leave. He keeps showing up in everything else, everywhere else. I find him where he shouldn’t be and don’t find him where he should be. It’s all backwards, upside down. What the **** do I do with this?” Even though I’ve left I can’t leave. The further away I move the greater the pull of love, the greater the sense of belonging. How do we make sense of this when it violates everything we’ve ever been told about following God? Yes, I know not everyone has this experience. Some never leave the light, skirting the land of doubt; for others the light goes out entirely and God is experienced as absent. 

But it’s neither of these for me, or a strange combination of both. Some warn that questioning, doubting, deconstructing, leaving, walking away, is dangerous (as it can be), but sometimes from the wrong angle. No one warned that leaving would bring me deeper into and overwhelm me with this outrageous and dangerous sense of love and belonging. The more we lose our former goodness the more we enter into another, resulting in a human freedom that is, yes, outrageous and dangerous. God gives freedom freely. It is outrageous, it is dangerous, and it demands we own it, use it, guard it, care for it, be responsible with it. 

No one warned me of the other side—the danger of an increased awareness of God’s unfathomable love and belonging when I stop being good enough for it, of the extravagant freedom I am afraid of, of the unreasonable grace I shy away from, of the humbling, universal mercy and forgiveness extended to all simply because we exist. No one warned me how dangerous God is when guards are lowered, pretenses dropped, constructions deconstructed, religion left, efforts abandoned, self-righteousness and personal goodness emptied. This is dangerous ground because it is holy ground. It is God’s ground. And it is freedom. And this freedom is terrifying in what it asks of us. 

I know that whatever I do or don’t know, wherever I do or don’t arrive, whatever I do or don’t believe, this Presence is with me and for me. “You are in me. I am in you. I am with you always.” These familiar words have new meaning. I know them because I’m living them. God is still here when and where he shouldn’t be. I’m still here even when I leave. Is the good news truly this good?

“If I do not find You everywhere, I find You nowhere.”

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