This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Falling asleep in God’s lap

Confession: I am not always the world’s most observant person. Friends once rearranged half the items in my office as a joke and were quite disappointed that I never knew the difference.

Meghan Good

Still, I’m fairly certain I would notice if my bedroom became the boarding platform for the Heavenly Express.

Then again, Jacob probably thought the same.

If there’s one thing you’d think would be hard to miss in a place, it’s the presence of the living God, the Creator of the world. That seems a bit like missing the mammoth in the jelly jar. I mean, where would it hide?

If the God of his grandfather Abraham was real, Jacob thought he would surely know it. He certainly assumed that if he and God stood side by side, he’d at least sense someone there.

But it turns out Jacob was wrong. It turns out that a person can fall asleep in God’s lap and still never realize what cushions his head.

“Surely the Lord is in this place!” Jacob exclaims upon finally waking. It’s a profound epiphany. Most of us never get any further than, “Surely the Lord is in that place over there.”

Many of us spend our lives running from church to church, job to job, relationship to relationship.

We’re chasing a presence or the promise of something we long for, following tales of where it’s been or rumors of where it will show up next.

We hold out hope that some distant day in the future, when the stars align, we will finally arrive.

We never dream that the very One we are seeking might already be living in our own backyard. We don’t consider that the place that we’ve been looking for all this time might be the place where we already are.

It’s a strange Presence with so much power that can be so easily overlooked, that integrates so fully into the local landscape that it is hard to pick out. It’s a strange Presence that can be missed even by someone who is sitting in its epicenter.

Yet the journey of faith really begins when we start to believe not that “God is out there somewhere in the great beyond,” not that “God is in that place on holier ground,” but that “God is in this place right where I am.”

God is here on this patch of rocky desert soil. God is here in this night that’s waiting for dawn. God is here on this journey whose end remains unclear.

The end of the rainbow, the base of heaven’s ladder, is right at the place where I lie down at night to rest from all my searching.

Jacob names the place where God appeared to him Beth­el, which means “the house of God.” Yet the name doesn’t imply God is settling down here, on this particular patch of earth. God is not a god who stays put once found. Only idols stand in one place forever.

The God of Jacob is the God of the journey, who moves with us and ahead of us to new places, wherever changing times and circumstances lead us.

“God’s house” was in Rebekah’s tents and Laban’s fields and also a rocky spot halfway between Beersheba and Haran.

What’s remarkable isn’t Jacob himself or the particular geographical coordinates where he found himself this night. What’s remarkable is the promise God makes: “My presence will go  with you and not leave you, wherever your journey takes  you. Wherever you go, that’s where I will be.”

What more could we ask for than this?

Surely God is in this place, and now we recognize it.

Meghan Larissa Good is teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz., and author of The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today, published this fall by Herald Press.

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