For quite a while I’ve been intrigued by the biblical story that phrase comes from. It’s in Genesis 28…part of the story of the two brothers Jacob and Esau. Jacob has been a trickster and a thief (with his mother’s help!), stealing from his older brother the father’s blessing that was rightfully his. Esau is about ready to kill him, but Jacob’s mother has convinced Isaac (the father) to send Jacob off to his uncle’s in order to find a bride. So Jacob is on the road…
Night has come, and he lays down, using a stone for a pillow. While he’s asleep, he dreams that he sees a ladder reaching from heaven to earth–and he sees the angels of God ascending and descending on it. He also hears the Lord blessing him, promising to make his offspring almost innumerable–and promising that the Lord will never leave him.
When Jacob wakes up, he says “Surely the LORD is in this place–and I did not know it!” And he honors the place.
I wonder sometimes…how many times do I find myself in a similar situation? Not running away from the results of being a thief/trickster…but sleeping–and not recognizing God’s presence in the place where I am.
The story has so many different levels it can be read! Is it sort of a “get-out-of-jail” free kind of story? where Jacob doesn’t have to face the consequences of his actions? I don’t think so. He still has to worry about Esau’s reaction toward him!
Is it a “doesn’t matter what you do, I’ll still be with you” kind of promise from God? Well, sort of….God did promise to always be with Jacob, but he did care about Jacob’s behavior. Jacob didn’t immediately change his behavior–but God didn’t leave him alone either.
Or is it more a challenge to look around me with eyes more open? to see the ways God is present? Is there any place where God is not?
Jacob was in a hard place. Yes, it largely grew out of his own actions, but it still was not a pleasant place to be. And yet God was there. Jacob didn’t see that until his eyes were opened.
God is also in the hard places of our world…the places we don’t want to be (or see)…the hard places we find ourselves because of our own actions. Do we sense God’s presence? Are our eyes open? Or are we too asleep?
There’s a “puzzle” I’ve seen sometimes that’s appropriate to this question:
G O D I S N O W H E R E
How do you read it?