Editor's note: Please join us June 13th for the WayMaker Online Bible Study with Ann Voskamp! Today’s excerpt is from Ann’s brand-new, bestselling companion book, in which she tells her most personal and unforgettably vulnerable love story – the story of her marriage that she almost lost, and of her daughter she almost didn’t find – and how to find the way forward when there seems to be no way. For anyone who keeps facing obstacles on the way to their dreams, turn your eyes to the WayMaker. Enjoy this incredible glimpse into what’s to come!
When he tells me on Wednesday evening of our unconsummated honeymoon that he wants to go home, I don’t care how many evenings he took me down to the water’s edge to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, the Lakeside Cafe, for secluded candlelight dinners — prime rib, medium rare, and chicken, cordon bleu. I don’t care that I laughed and said I wanted to lick my plate, then he’d laughed, leaned over, and kissed my lips tasting like the warmth of wine. I don’t care that we’d run down to the beach at sunset, run right into the ebbing, rose-gilded waves, and he had caught me up in the surround of his arms, and I felt beautiful. All I care about is the fact that my brand-new husband wants to exit our honeymoon three days early and I’m embarrassed — ashamed — and wildly desperate for some kind of exodus of my own.
Get out of this bathroom, get out of this cheap motel room, just any way to get out of here. I turn off the shower. Wash my face, wash away all the vulnerability of tears. I don’t want him to know. We don’t know each other like Adam knew Eve, and I, as sure as Heaven and a month of Sundays, don’t want him to know that I feel scorched with rejection. I reach for a towel to quickly dry my face then quietly open the bathroom door. He’s packing his bag, folding his beach towel. He looks up, smiles gently, completely oblivious to how exiting a honeymoon paradise early may leave a tender, twisted scar.
“Hey, I’m just gonna grab some air for a minute. Headache.” Why mention that my head isn’t throbbing nearly as badly as my heart’s fracturing?
I reach the door before he can say anything, reach the beach before he can follow, reach the water’s edge and the water crashing cold across toes, water from somewhere else in the world, full of stories that found a way to keep going. Somehow.
“Where are we going here? How in the world did we get here already?” I’m choking it back, walking too quickly through a fringe of ragged waves. If he wants a way out of our honeymoon to get back to work, can I try to find my way out too? If we can’t even get a taste of the milk and honey in the honeymoon phase, what do the rest of the blasted phases of our moon look like together? The waves keep crashing against my legs.
“Where are you?” Where is the One who promised if we did it His way, everything would turn out all right?
“Where are you?” — Genesis 3:9
It’s God’s first recorded question in all of history, the shortest question of the entire Hebrew Bible, and it hasn’t stopped echoing across the topography of time. Only three words: Where are you? The most life-changing questions always are the shortest. In Hebrew it’s actually only one word: ayekah. That one word God is speaking into this moment, even right now: “Where are you? Where are you? Where are you?” Where are you going with your life? Where is your soul on the way? Where you are — is this truly where you want to be?
No, I am not where I expected to be, not where I imagined I’d be, none of this is the way I thought it would be. Is that my Expectational Positioning System’s alarm wildly going off?
- When an all-knowing God asks a question — “Where are you?” — isn’t He only asking so you will begin to know the answer?
The God who knows how to choreograph the sun and moon and stars across the skies, who moves these waves, who knows where Adam hid, who knows where the head’s at, where the soul aches, where the heart’s fractured. God isn’t asking for Adam’s or anyone’s coordinates — He’s asking me to seek out and coordinate my own heart with His. The disappointments and disillusions, the dreams and desperate hopes, these are already known to an all-knowing God. He asks you where you are in your life because He wants you to name the place, see the place, acknowledge it, sit with it — even befriend it.
Befriend here? All I want to do is scream it across waves: I want a way out of here!
Ayekah means God understands everything going on inside and doesn’t want a soul to hide. Not to hide from the feelings, not to hide from the hoping, not to hide from the dreaming, not to hide from the grieving. Like Adam and Eve, the temptation is to flee. To cover who I am and how this feels because I’d rather wander lost than sit with the fear of fully feeling, the fear of being transparent and known, only to experience the flooding shame of rejection and abandonment.
But here’s what no one tells you:
- When you hide who you are, what you ultimately are hiding from is yourself.
This is a haunting, exhausting kind of lost. And if evil can keep you distracted from taking the time to ask your soul where you really are, he can take you every day further from the life you envisioned.
When we find the courage to be transparent, we find ourselves found. Only when you ask where you are every day can you find your way. The God who asks where you are, He’s large enough to hold you — however, wherever, you are.
Where in the world am I really?
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! — Psalm 139:23–24 ESV
Do I really want to locate where I am in this story? I know, I know: Refuse reflective questions, and you refuse the self-reflection that has the power to change your very reflection. But all I want to do is ask God where He is in all of this. Do I want to say where I am to I AM?
“God speaks to Adam and halts him in his flight. Come out of your hiding place... out of your self-torment... Confess who you are, do not lose yourself in religious despair, be yourself. Adam, where are you?” beckoned theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.1
This is the age of Adams — we evade the arms of God. Stay alone and you stay lost.
But when aloneness ends, lostness ends, and we have a God who names Himself the One who is with us.
The setting sun is painting the waves shades of blush, and how can life ache so much?
It’s striking that He used the word ayekah when He could have used the more common, generic word for “where” in Hebrew, eifoh, which simply means to locate.2 Eifoh is the word Saul used when seeking David, when Naomi asked about Ruth’s whereabouts, when Joseph was trying to track down his brothers. Ayekah, on the other hand, expresses a heart motivation beyond mere location, and ayekah conveys expectations: “Where have you gone? Where are you if you are not here with me?”
When Adam and Eve turned away from intimacy with God, God cried ayekah because He was asking more than simply, “Where are you?” He was asking, “Where are you in relation to Me? Where have you gone that’s taken you further away from Me? Where are you when the expectation is that you and I would always be together?”
God cries because there is distance between Him and His lover, and God’s first known question of history asks you to orient to the topography of intimacy, to locate yourself in the Landscape of Love.
God knows what it’s like for there to be trouble in paradise, for paradise to go all wrong, for the perfect way to fall away, for there to be distance. For all the times nothing is turning out the way I’ve dreamed, and I’ve howled at God, “Where are You?” He’s howled His own very first question of all time with that one word, ayekah, that howls:
Where are you when it was once all about you and Me — and now it’s all about you and that damned lying snake? Woe is Me; where have you gone? I just want you here with Me.
For the Lord your God is looking for you, means to be “always with you. / He celebrates and sings because of you” (Zephaniah 3:17 CEV).
- The triune God isn’t disappointed in you, isn’t rebuking you, isn’t rejecting you, but the triune God delights in you, smiles over you, seeks to be with you, revives you with His kiss of grace and can’t stop singing love songs because of you.
God knows that it always takes three to make the realest love out of anything, never only two. In the space between two people, only God can make a love that transcends the disappointments. The way that God wants the most is the way that keeps us close to Him. Right from the beginning, God has ached over any space and distance between us. When we were looking for a way out, God’s woe over any distance between us drove Him to make a way to us. To be with us.
The cross points to the Way with open arms.* Because our fall was detachment from God, our restoration is found only in attachment to God. If our first sin was to turn from God, detach the fruit from the tree, and savor it, then our return to wholeness is to turn, attach to God, and savor Him. Though our fall broke our attachment to God, He makes a way to us, slips His arms around us, and whispers all will be well now because He is Immanuel, God with us. Our story can only know restoration if our attachment to God is restored. The very symbol of the faith, the intersection of the cross, expresses how God purposes us for connection.
God has always been a WayMaker, making more than merely a way through. The WayMaker is making a way to you.
What if the only thing that will heal our hearts is to let Him fuse His broken heart with ours?
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, trans. Douglas Stephen Bax, ed. John W. de Gruchy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004), 128–29.
2. Rabbi Yehuda Leib Shapira-Frankfurter, quoted in Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein, “Fascinating Explorations in Lashon HaKodesh,” Jewish Review, November 15, 2019, https://jewishreview.co.il /where-are-you-2446/.
* The first followers of Jesus were known as followers of “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; and 24:14, 22).
Excerpted with permission from The WayMaker by Ann Voskamp, copyright Ann Morton Voskamp.
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Let's revisit this... "The triune God isn’t disappointed in you, isn’t rebuking you, isn’t rejecting you, but the triune God delights in you, smiles over you, seeks to be with you, revives you with His kiss of grace and can’t stop singing love songs because of you." God longs for you!
Are you joining us for the WayMaker Online Bible Study starting June 13th? I hope you do! You can sign up right here! Grab a friend and register today.