DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Where Have You Been?

Written by: on January 23, 2015

To often we do not pray. We find other things to do than to actually stop the madness of the doing and just sit and wait upon the Lord. I once heard a story of African converts who were earnest in their times seeking God that they would each choose a place in the thicket of tall grass to go and communion with the Almighty. As expected, over time, these paths to each individual’s place of private prayer would become well worn. If one of the believers began to neglect their time in prayer their path would begin to grow grass. Everyone would know that they have not been spending time in prayer. A polite admonishment to this brother or sister would be “Brother, the grass grows on your path.” This statement would be enough to communicate that others were concerned about this individual not spending time in prayer.

It was during one of these flesh-activated-to-do-list-dominating-grass-growing-on-my-path times that I had been neglecting my prayer times that I was led to pen this poem.

 

The Place

I showed up one day unexpectedly.

There I stood looking around.

It was by accident that I had come… or was it?

My mind was full of questions, my heart full of joy.

I had been here before.

It was familiar, yet excitingly new, fresh, distinct!

The warmth, the love, the joy, it was thick.

I smiled, closed my eyes, and embraced the moment

I feared to open my eyes lest it all vanish away.

He was there.

I suddenly felt my body bow in reverence.

He had always been there.

I had not recognized this truth.

It was not just warmth, love, nor joy that I was feeling

It was Him.

When I realized this I suddenly felt

“I don’t belong.”

I wanted to get out, but wanted to stay even more.

His gaze was upon me, though I did not return it.

My head hung in shame.

I was overwhelmed.

He came.

I feared.

He touched.

I wept.

He lifted my head.

He said I belonged.

He had a question…

“Where have you been?”

Truly the concluding question, “Where have you been?” is for all of us that have misunderstood prayer to be some mystical portal that requires a certain set of combinations to appropriately enter into. MaryKate Morse’s book, A Guidebook to Prayer dispels all such notions and provides for us a guidebook complete with exercises that can be done in a group setting, with a partner, or solo. With 24 different prayers divide into three section corresponding to the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit there are prayers that truly guide the reader into The Place where He is, waiting for us to come. As MaryKate states, “Prayer is a love relationship involving the interdependent union of the Trinity.”[1]

I enjoyed each section of the book as it provided background teaching to set our minds aright and awaken our intellect, but MaryKate was also king in providing personal testimonies that kept us tethered to the personal reality that prayer is. As she noted Augustine’s conclusion that “the primary presence of the Holy Spirit is love, not knowledge.”[2] It is in this love relationship that we find the voice, the dance, the music in our spirit that is God Himself communing with us.

From sacramental, to Pentecostal (praying in tongues) to the contemplative prayer MaryKate provides so many ways to enter in. We ought never have the excuse that we did not know the road to pray. So, my intellectual friend, have you ever heard the Lord ask you the question, “Where have you been?”

[1] MaryKate Morse, A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-Four Ways to Walk with God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 17.

[2] Ibid., 168.

About the Author

mm

Mitch Arbelaez

International Mission Mobilizers with Go To Nations Living and traveling the world from Jacksonville Florida

8 responses to “Where Have You Been?”

  1. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    Mitch, your question “Where have you been” reminds me of Elijah’s encounter with God where God asks him, “what are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah starts his desperate complaint/ prayer saying something like “I’m the only one left…” I often put myself in Elijah’s shoes… how desperate and afraid he must have been and a calm voice says “what are you doing here?”
    So yes, I can easily hear God say “where have you been?” especially when the days are long and the spirit is weary. Sometimes I run in circles and even though I’m racking up the miles, I never actually go anywhere… those are the days that “where have you been” echoes loudly in my spirit.

  2. mm Deve Persad says:

    Love your poem, Mitch and appreciate the question that it leaves with us. It’s incredibly humbling to consider the fact that Our God, who created the universe is eagerly awaiting our time and attention through moments of prayer – in intentionally personal interaction as well as in the moment by moment progressions of our day. What a gracious God we serve…thanks for the reminder Mitch.

  3. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Mitch!
    What I really love about Morse’s book is that is a wonderful blend of both the practical and the very spiritual. You mention speaking in tongues. I love the fact that she also has a small section on this. Not many authors are brave enough to explain that precious gift.
    Your poem is beautiful. It gets right to the heart of the problem for many of us: Where have you been? I am always in admiration of Biblical individuals who often went to their prayer closet three times a day. We struggle to do so once a day, don’t we?
    We all know Bill Hybels’ book, Too Busy Not To Pray. I think there should be a sequel called, Too Desperate Not to Pray. Personally, that is more my own experience. Desperation is a wonderful motivation for prayer!

  4. Mitch,

    Thanks for sharing here. Both the African prayer-path story and your poem were very thought provoking and helpful.

    My path is probably a meadow by now. I need a lawn mower to find the darn thing! At any rate, every time I do happen to stumble upon the path, I always experience God’s grace. He is not mad but He is hurt. I guess I would feel the same way if my children never spent time with me. In fact, I do have a daughter who is not a big fan of her dad’s personality, and I don’t see her much since she lives in another state and has a very stressful job. But I am not mad at her for this; rather, I am sad that I am not able to spend more time with her. I miss her deeply and long to hear her voice. That parent-child relationship is about that very thing — relationship. The cool thing is that my daughter is very close to my wife, so I do know what is going on in her life, albeit, secondhand. My hope is that some day when my daughter is a mom that she would understand a little more about that kind of relational love between a parent and a child.

    Thanks again, Mitch, for sharing your thoughts.

  5. mm Ashley Goad says:

    Mitch, what an amazing poem! God gave you beautiful words. Thank you for sharing them with us. The question, “Where have you been?” reminded me of one of the examples in the book. (I can’t find it right now, so I may quote this wrong…) He said he no longer wanted to be greeted into Heaven with a “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Instead, he wanted to be greeted with a warm hug and a, “Hello friend, it is good to see you.” This reminds me of Morse’s insistence that prayer is love relationship; it is not an event, it is a life. Oh, how I love to live in that relationship, fully and deeply!

  6. mm Julie Dodge says:

    Brother Mitch! I love, love, loved the story about the path and the grass. That just sunk in, deeply and I am still sitting with it’s resonance. Such a great visual marker and a beautiful method of accountability. Thanks for this. I don’t have a lot to say – just – thank you.

  7. Michael Badriaki says:

    Great post brother Mitch! I am very familiar with the grass path story. It happens in many instances and in fact I loved the memories the came back to mind.
    I love the question “Where have you been?” Another way to put that question is that’s a calling, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 I grew up around the Islamic call to prayer and when I read about God’s search for Adam and Eve, I was astonished by His loving-kindness in the question, “Where are you?” I love this question because to me, it’s God’s call to be in union with Him through worship, prayer etc.

    Another invitation I relish is “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” What a merciful God indeed!!

    Thanks a lot brother!!

  8. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    Mitch,
    Wonderful…really moving.
    I love that you were able to express God as asking “where have you been” out of deep love and friendship rather than shame — at least that’s how it read to me.
    For me at least, in your narrative, I hear God asking that question a bit differently than the African brothers and sisters that you mention. It’s likely that I am just falsely placing that sense on them and they did not mean it that way at all. I suppose it also suggests to some extent the antipathy I have toward others unduly critiquing spirituality based on outward signs. I suppose this is what I appreciate about Quakers at their best — a breadth of acceptance of form and an intensive quest for meaning.
    Anyhow, I suppose in my mind, I added some words to the end of your poem…I heard added, “my son,” or “my daughter,” or “my friend” — as in, “where have you been, my friend?”
    I can imagine myself saying this to a dear friend who I have missed, or to my wife or my daughter or son after an unexpected absence.
    So…thanks again. A good word.

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