Have you ever considered that the perfect world of Eden was a roadless world? Roads are built to get us somewhere. While there was certainly a sense of expansion in God’s command to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28), the perfect life in a perfect world wasn’t found in getting somewhere but in abiding somewhere.
Genesis 1–2 is a story of place. God creates a universe of what we’d call “reality” and fills it with his creative beauty, declaring goodness over every part of it. In Genesis 1, place is universal. The entire created cosmos is in view. In that sense, place is something we can never escape. And whether it’s heaven, earth, or anywhere else, wherever we can point to and say “there,” that “there” is a place our omnipresent God hasn’t only created but inhabits.
But then in Genesis 2, something important happens as humanity comes onto the scene. Place becomes localized. Humanity inhabits a specific place—Eden, within the planet we call earth—and is entrusted with its care.
Then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he placed the man he had formed. . . . The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. (Gen. 2:7–8, 15, CSB).
One of God’s attributes that he doesn’t permit us to share in is his omnipresence. We’re unipresent, only able to truly inhabit one place at a time. What if the limitations of your time and place were part of God’s grace to you? What if the ever-changing seasons we experience yet cannot possess and the spaces we inhabit that haunt us with a sense of “locatedness” are part of God’s plan for deepening our trust in him and for fruitfulness in life?
What if the limitations of your time and place were part of God’s grace to you?
The world we live in has become increasingly mobile. It’s also increasingly rare for someone to remain in one place for his or her entire life. Take a moment to consider the place you’re presently in. I don’t know how long you’ve been there or how long you intend to stay. But for as long as you dwell there, God desires that your presence would bless that place. That you’d live out your heavenly citizenship, wherever you may be in this world. Your presence—your “whereness”—deeply matters to God.
First Question God Ever Asked
Have you ever thought about the fact that the first question God ever asked in the Bible was a question about location? When our first parents disobeyed God and hid themselves, God asked Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). This isn’t the kind of question an all-knowing, ever-present God asks for his own sake. He asks the question for Adam’s sake. And for ours.
Where are you?
Wherever you are right now, there you are. And there only can you be. Unlike God, you’re not omnipresent but localized. The question of “Where are you?” speaks not only to our geographic location but to our relational location, our lived proximity in relation to God, others, and ourselves.
When Adam and Eve were deceived by the Serpent’s whisper and disobeyed God, the Lord asked a shame-hidden Adam, “Where are you?” The question demanded Adam consider not only his present status but the status of his presence.
Lie: ‘You’re Missing Out’
In our sin-broken world, we’ll be tempted to cast off our humanity and exchange it for divinity, putting ourselves in the place of God. Perhaps in no greater way do we experience this temptation today—the desire to transcend where we presently are—than through the small, rectangular screens we carry around in our pockets.
Though online platforms have provided us with many benefits, the real trouble with our attempts to be technologically omnipresent in multiple spaces is that we fail to be fully present in any space. We become digitally distracted—physically near those we love yet so often mentally absent. The digital age has connected us while simultaneously isolating us. We’re in touch with one another but not really known. We believe fullness of life is elsewhere; anywhere other than here.
The attention economy driven by clicks and likes in the digital world will repeatedly try to trick us into believing real life is attained by being where we’re not. That we’re somehow missing out on what’s happening with everyone else, everywhere else.
You’re missing out.
Isn’t that the same lie that slithered off the Deceiver’s tongue in Genesis 3? The lie that broke the world in the first place? As it turns out, a life disembodied from the limits of God-given place isn’t the way back to Eden at all.
Learn to Be Where Your Feet Are
Maybe part of the answer is simply relearning what it means to be fully attentive to the place we’re in.
While it’s a great gift to be able to travel to different parts of the world with ease or to connect with people in different time zones through the portal in my pocket, the truth is, I can only truly dwell in, work in, and watch over one place at a time. To be faithfully present means I cannot love the world generally or theoretically; I must love it particularly.
In the wise words of Wendell Berry, “No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.”
Fullness of life is not out there somewhere, but here.
To be faithfully present means I cannot love the world generally or theoretically; I must love it particularly.
God has placed you where you are, and when you are, for his glory, right now. What if you made peace with the limitations that God has woven into your present season and spaces? What if we learned to say with Jacob, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16, emphasis added)?
Both your joy and your endurance are embedded in a life that loudly declares, “I am not God.” And what he desires is for you to be attentive to the life you’ve been given, not the life you think you ought to have been given. To glorify God right where you are, not where you think you ought to be. To trade in the illusion of omnipresence, which belongs to him alone, for faithful presence here, where your own two feet are.
That’s where the God who fills all places, fully and faithfully, is.
And that’s where he wants you to fully and faithfully dwell as well. Right where you are, with all you are.