Where Have You Been?

“Where you been? I haven’t seen you in like three weeks.”

“I was downtown and around.”

“Well, I’ve been looking for you. I was worried about you.”

“Thanks. I’m ok. Good to be missed.”

I was in the laundry room folding clothes with the windows open.  I could hear the guests talking on the front patio and porch. I could hear guests checking in with each other, making sure their friends are making it.

“Where you been?”

When I started to reflect on this question, I thought about the Bible’s first question, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). God asks Adam this question after he had eaten of the forbidden fruit. This question can be read as accusatory: God asks the question to find out Adam’s guilt. But I think it can also be read as God asking a question of concern, like one guest asking another “Where you been?”

To care for another person is to want to know where they have been, what is going on in their life, how they are doing.

From Genesis on, I can find in the Bible where God is always looking for us, like a shepherd searching for a lost sheep. When the shepherd finds that lost sheep, the shepherd does not judge or condemn, but offers healing hospitality and rejoicing (Ezekial 34:11, 16, Luke 15:3-7).

I think Jesus spoke through the guest who asked, “Where you been?” And the guest who responded saw this as a godly question, and acknowledged what I know to be true in my life, it is good to be missed, it is good to be found, it is good to be welcomed.

I have certainly missed Manna House guests during our time of being on reduced days and hours for hospitality. Now that we are slowly adding days and hours, more guests are returning.

We added back showers on Mondays a couple of weeks ago. We clean and air out the shower room between each use, and we are only allowing one person to shower at a time (we have two shower stalls). Socks and Hygiene distribution has been moved to the back porch, so people can wait in the backyard and they do not have to congregate in the house as they wait for their names to be called. Thankfully our backyard is big enough that people can spread out and do the physical distancing necessary. We are requiring all guests and volunteers to wear masks.

As guests return, I am catching up with them, and they are catching up with me and with other volunteers. We have all been lost. We have wandered around, lamenting our loss of a place to gather and welcome each other. We have missed each other. This place of hospitality is where together we are found, healed, and rejoiced over.

In the larger scheme of things, I think this is what our society and our world needs. We need to create a society in which we ask each other, “Where have you been?” We need to create a world of welcome in which we are healed and rejoiced over.

God is looking for us. We are found by God when we look after each other. We are found by God when we hear God’s voice in the voice of the Other; when we hear God say, “I can’t breathe” as Jesus said on the cross, as George Floyd said under the knee of a cop. We are found by God as we lift that knee of oppression, and kneel instead to wash each other’s feet (John 13:1-7).

“Where you been?” Imagine if we sought out each other to welcome each other. Imagine if each one of us knew that we were missed. We might get closer to the reign of God.