Surely God Was In This Place
“Surely God is in this place and I did not know it!” – Genesis 28:16
Jacob could probably be forgiven for not knowing that God was in the desert where he’d spent the night with only a stone for a pillow. The harsh landscape around him matched the landscape of his own life. He was on the run from his older brother Esau whom he’d tricked out of both his birthright and also their father’s blessing. Not surprisingly, Esau was out for his brother’s blood.
So Jacob escaped to the wilderness. That night he dreamt of a ladder that stretched to the heavens, filled with angels going up and down. Nothing in the landscape around him pointed to the possibility of such an amazing vision. No wonder he woke from sleep and proclaimed, “Surely God was in this place and I did not know it!”
Moreover, Jacob could have easily proclaimed “Surely God is in me, and I did not know it!” A conniver and a cheat, Jacob’s interior landscape was as desolate as the desert around him. Yet God not only gave him a vision of angels but also promised to be with him and his offspring.
Jacob’s angelic vision reminds us that God is present everywhere, even in the least promising places of our world and our lives. As you head into this summer, may you be open to that presence wherever the journey may lead. May each day begin and end with Jacob’s amazement: “Surely God is in this place!”–even if, like Jacob, we don’t always know it.
Open us to your presence, God, wherever we are, whoever we are. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.