He asked me which question was the hardest to write about….
I sat across from the morning show host of the radio station WXGM (99.1 FM) and was chatting about my new book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Lives to God’s Questions.
It’s a book about how I, the queen of all question-askers, learned to stop talking so much and started letting God ask me questions.
To Adam and Eve, He asked, “Where are you?”
To Elijah, He asked, “What are you doing here?”
To Peter, He asked, “Do you love me?”
Our God is a relation-builder, a reconciler. Right from the beginning, Adam and Eve made a mess of things, disobeyed Him, and hid in the garden. How could they be so foolish, thinking a few fig leaves could hide their whereabouts from an omniscient, all-powerful God who had made them just days before?
But God didn’t lecture, chastise, yell, or rain down fire on them.
Instead, He sought them out with a simple stroll in the garden and this asking: Where are you?
He didn’t ask because He didn’t know. He didn’t ask for His own benefit.
He asked to show two wayward children who trembled in fear and hid in shame among the foliage that He loved them. He still desperately wanted relationship with them, and He would go to great lengths and make the ultimate sacrifice in order to draw all of us back to Him.
These questions of God’s are all through the Bible, and when we let Him ask them of us they root out fear, help us overcome shame and insecurity, and promise God’s presence and faithful provision in whatever circumstance we face.
So I sat across from the radio host last week, a copy of my book about God’s questions sitting on the desk in front of him. That’s when he asked me, “Which one was the hardest to write about?”
I knew right away what to answer.
It was God’s question to Cain: “Where is your brother?”
When I wrote the book, I had so many questions in Scripture to choose from. God is such a question-asker. He fills Scripture with His patient pursuit of His people. So, I had to leave some out. I couldn’t cover them all, not in one book anyway.
I didn’t want to write about Cain. What could we have in common, after all? The first murderer and a middle class minivan mom like me?
Yet, even though I wanted to skip God’s question to Cain, I couldn’t. I knew God wanted me to write about it, and once I started typing on that blank word processor all about it, I couldn’t stop.
Community, after all, can be messy. Relationships are prone to failure. They trip us up with their pits and obstacles and shaky ground. We shove into each other’s space, stepping on toes, bruising egos, making assumptions and getting it wrong.
That’s what Cain’s story is about, really, about how his discontentment, jealousy and unforgiveness grew to disastrous levels until he exploded in rage and destroyed another person….and himself.
Over time, I realized just how much God needed to ask me the same question that he asked this first murderer in history.
Heather, where’s your brother? Where’s your sister?
It turns out that Cain and I have far more in common than I realized…surely far more than I wanted to admit.
Jealousy….anger….comparing the ministry of someone else to my own meager-looking offerings….defensiveness….whining….broken relationships….needing to forgive others….needing to be forgiven.
That was Cain.
It’s me sometimes, too.
Maybe you’ve been there also. Maybe you’ve been Cain.
Or, perhaps you’ve even been Abel, subject to the cruel lashing out of someone who’s been hurt or overlooked.
I don’t know who needed the reminder that day while I chatted on the radio or even who needs to know this today, but God created us for community with Him and community with others. When that’s broken, it rips apart our testimony, it distracts us from ministry purposes, and it taints our offering with bitterness.
So, God asks us this question: Where is your brother? Where is your sister?
And He reminds us that He loved people…messy, sinful, broken people…enough to die for them.
Enough to die for me.
Enough to die for you.
If He loved us that much, surely we should love others, too, even when it’s hard and requires repentance or forgiveness, admitting we’re wrong or trampling our own pride.
In the end, the hardest of God’s questions to write about became one of the questions that taught me the most.