Where Are You?
by Jessica LaGrone
To start off, I need to admit that I’ve never really outgrown children’s books. My mother is a children’s librarian. And so children’s books seem a little bit like my childhood friends. Even before I had children, I loved to visit bookstores. On one occasion, I was in the basement of my very favorite bookstore taking a moment to visit my childhood friends when I heard a voice. I overheard a woman calling out and I knew instantly what was going on because the voice said, ”Timmy. Timothy. Where are you?” There in the children’s section on the other side of that bookshelf, I could clearly hear what was happening. A mother was looking for her lost child.
Now I recall getting lost in children’s bookstores (pretty much on purpose) as a kid. So I just smiled as she continued, “Timothy.” And then her voice began to get a little more serious and she used those 3 names that only the person who gave them to you ever uses, “Timothy Alan Johnson, you come out here right now.” But he didn’t. Pretty soon, I began looking for Timmy. In fact, all of the patrons in the bookstore on that basement level, were suddenly forming an impromptu search party looking for a little boy. “Where are you, Timmy?”
We didn’t even know what he looked like. Yet we were searching. Quickly, word began to spread that Timothy Alan Johnson was only 2 years old. Two is very small to be separated from your mother for that long. And I could tell, just from this woman’s posture, the look on her face, the sound of her voice, that this was a very serious situation. It was becoming clear that we had covered the whole basement of this bookstore and he was not there.
I watched her eyes look over to the escalators, the only exit up to the first floor of that bookstore. Could he have gone up the escalator by himself? Could someone have taken him? I watched as she walked over to the desk with the clerk, and the clerk picked up the phone to make that phone call upstairs, the one that no one ever wants to make, to tell them to seal off the exits, that there had been a possible kidnapping. But just as that clerk lifted the phone up to his ear, I followed his gaze because he looked off behind me at the back wall of the store. And just as quickly as he had picked the phone up, he put it back down on the receiver and hung up.
When I turned to see what was behind me on the back wall, the elevator doors on the back wall opened, and crumpled in a little ball, in the corner of the elevator, crying was Timothy Alan Johnson. He could hear our voices the whole time. Two-year-olds like to push buttons. And so he had pushed the button and some magic doors had opened before him. And he went through and the doors closed. Poor little boy had been listening to our voices call out for him the whole time.
I have never seen a woman move as quickly as I saw her sprint to that elevator. And I saw her scoop him up. And of all the names that I heard her call out for him, I heard her call one more name. She whispered actually, when she got him in her arms she said, “You stinker. You stinker. You scared Mama. Don’t you do that again.”
When those first humans made a mess of creation, when they had a fall, when they took a leap away from following God, I know they were worried about how God would react. I know that because they hid—as if you could hide from God. And I know that God went searching for them. He went looking in the garden. And he began calling out for them. And there are a lot of things that God could have yelled at that point. God could have called out, “How dare you!” He could have called out, “I told you so.” He could have said something like, “What have you done?” Instead, when God went calling out for his lost kids, here is what he said, “Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8-9 says those first humans hid from the Lord God among the trees in the garden, but the Lord God called to the man these exact words, “Where are you?”
Isn’t it great that God doesn’t give up on us when we go missing? God’s calling for us is not unlike a parent calling out for a hurt and lost child. God doesn’t slam us with an “I-told-you-so” or “I’m gonna get you now.” All of our fear and our hiding (because we’re not perfect and we know that God knows it) is needless because all he wants is to be close to us again. God is always going to come looking for us. God is always going to be calling for us. God is first and foremost concerned with being close to his kids. God is searching, trying to connect with us. He’s calling out, “Where are you?”
Based on Broken and Blessed, Jessica's new Bible study on the book of Genesis. For ordering information, click here.
Jessica LaGrone is an Associate Pastor at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas. An acclaimed preacher, teacher, and author. Jessica enjoys speaking at retreats and events at churches throughout the United States. She and her husband, Jim, have two young children, Drew and Kate.