Where Did Place Come From?

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book everPresent Gospel. My hope is that the book will help us understand how to live on mission and maybe get us to think about how we do that in a unique way. To do that we have to start with the concept of place. --

Where are you right now? Take a moment and look around....

As I write I am sitting in a café on Bitting Ave. I can smell the dark aroma of roasted coffee. I hear the patrons of the shop discuss their lives, what they will see on T.V. this evening, the rise and fall of the economy and all sorts of other things. I feel the warmth of a heater turn on as it is an unusually cold day. Light streams in from the front windows and illuminates the orange walls to bring a warm, homey ambiance to the room. Latin American guitars and beats fill my ears as the music from the café stereo plays. The apple-carrot coffee cake I am eating has a sweet buttery flavor from fresh apples along with a sweet crunch from the sugar on top. The padded chair I sit in keeps me comfortable but awake. Right now I am in a place. There are specific and unique events happening in this space that are not occurring simultaneously anywhere else in the universe. This place is special. This place is one of a kind. This place is the only place I can be at in the world right now.

This is not true however of God. The Bible tells us that God fills heaven and earth (Jeremiah 23:24), that the highest heaven is not large enough to contain God (1 Kings 8:27), that there is not a single place in the entire universe that a human can go and God not be there (Psalm 139:7–10). The word “omnipresence” sums up for us this spacial reality of God. He is present everywhere all the time in every way. He is not limited by anything and is fully present everywhere that He is, which is everywhere. It’s at this point that we could venture down the path of comparison. See, God is big. God is so massively immense and infinite that he alone can be spacial present everywhere all the time.

Humanity however is not God. We can’t even exist in two places at once (although our efforts at this are endless). The comparison can be helpful to put us in our place but we need more than to be reminded of how much like an ant we are. We need to see the importance of our limitation, the uniqueness of our specific place. We need to see that although we are different from God by our inability to be everywhere-present our places, and specifically our presence in those places, have deep importance. Maybe we really do need to be put in our place. But maybe the “putting in our place” isn’t a painful humbling of our lives to insignificance and unimportance but a lifting of our lives to see the places that we inhabit and the presence we are to have is deeply valuable and important. We need to talk about God’s space and place.