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Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a forest. Night has fallen, and a chill fills the land as darkness takes over the sky. The ground is cool and damp to the touch, sending a shiver up your spine. Silence envelops you, punctuated only by the intermittent chirp of a lost and lonely cricket. You sympathize with him, for you too are lost and alone.

The wind picks up, and the night grows colder as you impatiently wait for the dawn to break. You already know this night will feel like an eternity, and to no fault but your own. The leaves you’ve pieced together to cover you do nothing to shield you from the night. You feel vulnerable, exposed.

Not too far in the distance you hear something rustling. You squeeze your eyes shut and curl up into a tiny ball, praying it is only the wind that dares to journey through the forest this late at night. You find yourself wishing you could go back, but you know you can’t. A feeling of deep regret and shame washes over you, steeling away the last ounce of warmth from your body. You feel sick to your stomach at the thought of what you’ve done.

How could you have left? How could you have wandered so far away? How did you get so lost? It started out so innocent. You thought you could strike out on your own. But no. You realize now more than ever that you need Him. But you can’t go back. Not after leaving Him. You replay the vision over and over in your mind. He was sitting beside you in the middle of the forest, leaning up against a tree talking to you. But you tuned His voice out. You started to wander. His voice grew faint until it all but faded away. You didn’t even really mean to leave Him, you just got distracted. And now you are lost alone in the forest. You think you know the way, but it seems too hard to get back on the trail, back on the path that leads to the center of the forest. You picture His face upon your return. Would it be a condescending scowl? A look of hurt because you forgot Him? Or perhaps if you are lucky, a look of relief that you came back.

You are considering these images when the crack of a large stick interrupts your thoughts. You jump and shrink back further in the shadows, afraid of the unknown lurking in the dark. The sound of something moving comes closer. You hold your breath, afraid that even the exhale of your lungs might give your location away. The movement becomes louder, and you feel the vibrations along the ground. Closing your eyes, you try to make yourself as small as possible. Then, the sound stops. The movement of the shadowy creature halts.

The silence is broken. “Where are you?”

You recognize the voice. It’s Him. You sink back even further in the shadows, too ashamed to reveal your hiding place.

”Where are you, Beloved?” His voice sounds tired and desperate, as if He’d been searching all night. “Where are you?” He calls again, the sound of defeat in His voice.

You can’t take it anymore. Finally, you stand in your place and call to Him. “Here I am Lord, You called me.”

Jesus runs to you and wraps His arms tightly around you. “There you are!” He wipes tears from His eyes. “I have been searching for you since the moment you left! Why were you hiding from Me?”

“I heard you calling for me, and I was ashamed. I couldn’t stand the idea of coming back and facing You after wandering away.”

Jesus pulls back and holds you at arm’s length. He peers into your eyes, and for the first time you realize that the dark night sky is littered with flecks of white diamonds.

“You are My, Beloved,” He whispers. “I don’t passively wait for you to return to Me. I love you. I know the moment you wander away; immediately I come searching for you, and I don’t stop until I find you. You may think that it is you who come back to me, but no; it is I who come searching after you.”

{~}

God is asking us the same question He asked Adam and Eve thousands of years ago in the garden. Our entire life is defined by the way we answer this one question. “Where are you?”

I will answer, “Here I am, Lord. I am Yours.”

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” {Genesis 3:8-9}