too near?

Every family has one and even though they drive us crazy we love them anyway. Every workplace has these people too. Admittedly, these are harder to love—probably because they are not our flesh and blood. I have even encountered them at the supermarket! It seems that everywhere you go these people are around.


I’m talking about those who hover. They want to see what you are doing, but stand a bit too close. They are bored so they just watch you…even though you aren’t doing anything. They stare without realizing it. You lean over to do something and they seem to lean in as well. You turn around and they are just there—always there. It can feel very smothering. It can feel like they have you under a magnifying glass, just watching…closely. They hover.

This is frustrating and a bit trying when it’s another person, but what about when the one hovering is God? Yesterday we remembered that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought us near to God. And being near to God is great…except when it’s not.

But when would that be?! When would we not want God to be near? When would his presence feel like he was hovering? Smothering?


How about when our world is falling apart and we feel like its God’s fault? How about when we are disillusioned? How about when it feels like God didn’t come through? Didn’t help? That’s when we’d like God to back off a little. Job’s response to God in the midst of his confusion and loss and pain is simply this: “Give me some space!” See for yourself:

What are human beings that you make so much of them,
that you give them so much attention, that you examine them every morning
and test them every moment? Will you never look away from me,
or let me alone even for an instant?           Job 7:17-19


“Can’t I just have a minute?” Will you never leave me be?!”


Truly, Job’s request, like our own, isn’t that he doesn’t want God around. It’s not really that he needs God to give him space. In truth he just wants God to act differently. Job is giving God the “with friends like you who needs enemies” treatment.

It’s interesting because Job started out with such a great attitude, even to the point of saying that God gives and God takes away but God should be praised either way.

But now he’s worn down. He’s tired. And he’s more than a little annoyed. Things have gone bad—real bad. And I’m not ignoring that or belittling what he’s been through. I can’t even imagine the loss he’s suffered. But what it exposes is the way in which Job is just like the rest of us—only we get to where Job is usually with a lot less pain and disappointment.

Why is it that we clamor for God’s presence, long for his activity and the power of his Spirit, but with such cloistered parameters? Why does our longing for Him so often come with an underlying set of regulations for how he should come? Why is it that even in our deepest desires for God to speak, for God to act, for God to be in our lives we have such little grace for the Grace-Giver? Why do we demand conformity to “common decency” as we’ve defined it? To the “common good” as we’ve determined it?

The bottom line: we are anti-pain, anti-hardship, and pro—I mean very, very pro—fun, ease, and comfort.  And we expect, dare I say, demand that God fall in line. When he doesn’t, we ask for a little space. (Or demand it!)

Thankfully the Grace-Giver is, well, full of grace. He keeps on loving and loving and loving; even while we keep on complaining and accusing and pushing away.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.       1 Chronicles 16:34


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