TOBI BENTON

Where Are You?

Where Are You?

Where Are You?

When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God. 

God called to the Man: “Where are you?” 

He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid. 

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Dear Favored One,

I know you’ve spent a good portion of your life being afraid. And when you are afraid you run away. Mostly because fear is tied to vulnerability and vulnerability to pain, and mostly you are afraid of loss. You have tried to master the art of hiding.

On a small step on the back side of the church building, waiting for courage.

In a tiny corner in the feed shed of the neighbor’s barn, needing to breathe in the hay-dust darkness.

Under the bed, still and quiet and hopefully forgotten until the storms played out.

I know to belong meant to perform, to anticipate, to do only your best, and to truly grieve when you failed. That you taught yourself.

I know the face of disappointment really meant distance, that you would need to work harder to be close and safe and held. I know if you had your way you would have laughed and loved and played and prayed your way through childhood. It was enough just to be.

I know what it meant to see delight in your people’s eyes. I know you never thought you could be good enough, that you stopped just short of naming the inner critic who helped you navigate childhood. The one who grew stronger and more clever and intelligently developed with you through each grade, each adventure, each possibility, keeping such a careful eye over your boundaries to avoid being put out of the circle. I watched you shoulder the weight of holding your world together.

Such a tiny girl to contain such a magnificent longing for love and friendship.

I have missed your hidden you.

You know I was the courage that met you on the small step and promised you would live.

You know I stood with you in the dark, expanded you lungs and pouring in peace and hope, promised you would live.

You know the covering you sought under the bed was my protection from the storms and my promise that you would live.

You and I, we have traveled so well, this Favored life together, and I promise I see you when you dart from the path to hide. I have watched you grow, strong and lovely, and open to love. You are my daughter, pulled back each time from sin and despair because I love you.

I know years into our friendship you have found yourself unsure of what is next. Uncertain about how to order your days. You have believed you are only the inner critic, let her harass you, conscience-prick your soul, call you sloth names, and try to place you in protective custody, all promising it is better to not risk than to lose love. It is why you stopped writing.

Where are you? 

I know you have been standing in unfamiliar territory. For years you have walked so bravely and confidently into each day that this new season is disorienting. You think you have done something wrong to be here. You presume to know where you fit in my purposes for your life and have numbed yourself to the fear no one is looking for you. You have lost your voice and think you’ve lost your courage.

It is uncomfortable waiting for me, I know. But your magnificent longing has grown deep roots and flourishes in my grace, extending branches, reaching out to the lost and the lonely. The grieving and the unseen. The marginalized and the outcast. The held down and the held out and the hold outs. I feel your heart and you find comfort in mine and it is time to find your voice. If you want to find purpose in these past years, the lessons were about believing I am trustworthy. You don’t need to perform or be good enough to earn my love. I am not ashamed of you. I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Dear Child, I know exactly where you are, especially when you do not. Trust me. Trust my love.

You are found.

Your Papa.

2 thoughts on “Where Are You?

  1. Beth Athey

    Yes, to this. I have been having some similar thoughts, but you so eloquently ordered them for me. Thank you!
    You and your words have blessed me today!

    Love ya,
    Beth

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