Where is God? Or: Is God Where I Am?
Guest post by Ryan Peak
In tough times, the question is often posed: Where is God? In tough times in my life, I also wonder: Is God where I am?
I have often felt that God is not where I am. To say it another way: I am not where I ought to be, so God cannot be where I am. All the assurances of scripture, the assertions of classical and modern theology, the soft voices of friends and mentors who gently remind of God’s presence, of God’s being here where I am, have not registered in my being.
While I heard the declaration ‘God with us’ in my youth, it didn’t reach into me. It simply met me. I sometimes spoke to it and pondered it, but it did not infiltrate my heart and it did not anchor my being. I felt I had to be where God is for God to be with me.
Now, though, I am learning that God is where I am, wherever that might be. And God is where you are, wherever you might be.
This is what Emanuel means, ‘God with us.’ This is what God became flesh means. God is here.
Where am I? I am in change, in hurt, in confusion, in longing, in sadness. I am in feeling that I do not want to be in.
This is what Emanuel means, ‘God with us.’ This is what God became flesh means. God is here.God is where I am.
At some point, I will likely make of God something more, locate God some place other than where I am, possessing something greater than what I feel. And while God may be more, greater, other and while God may be away, divorced, apart, God is also here: in hurt, in anger, in shame, in guilt, in waiting.
Remember, I say to myself and to you: “Wherever I might be, God is, and wherever you might be, God is there also.”
Poet Christian Wiman says that ‘Christ is contingency.’ What does this mean? I never quite got it until a friend said those words to me: ‘Christ is contingency.’ Christ is the dependent thing, whose name changes and whose work shifts as we live in feeling, in hope, in desire, in death.
God is where I am, wherever that might be. And God is where you are, wherever you might be.Today, as I write, Christ does not look like the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. I don’t see iconography. The cherubim look like lies. Bring me, instead, Christ the wounded healer, the suffering servant, the broken one, the one who knows what I feel and has – incomprehensible or not – felt what I feel and what you feel, wherever you are.
Because God is where I am, and God is Christ, and I am here where I am, and you are there, where you are. And so is God.
Explore God’s presence in times of trial and other tough questions about Christianity in Ryan’s upcoming course, Serious Answers to Hard Questions, starting next Monday, January 11.
Ryan Peak is a recent graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN, where he received a Master of Theological Studies degree with a concentration in Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture. A multi-instrumentalist and freelance arranger and producer, he directs the children’s choir and a worship ensemble at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, KS.