There’s a man in the Bible named Jacob. You probably wouldn’t have liked him; he was selfish, deceitful, and so greedy he was willing to con his dying father and steal his brother’s inheritance. Jacob was the kind of man who you keep your kids away from, the kind of relative you forget to invite to holiday dinners. But knowing the truth about Jacob makes God’s feelings about him all the more confusing.

Everything you read seems to imply that not only did God love Jacob in the way that He loves everyone, but he had an extra special affection for Him. The kind of affection a father has for one of his favorite children, even though a father isn’t supposed to have favorites.

One night, while Jacob was a fugitive running for his life, he fell asleep and had a dream, but it wasn’t just any dream, it was a dream inspired by God, and when Jacob woke up he said, “God was in this place, and I didn’t realize it.”

I think we do that a lot, assume God isn’t in certain places, I mean. I understand why Jacob would have assumed God wasn’t in that place, after all, he was a fugitive, a con artist on the run to save his life. My Sunday school upbringing makes it hard for me to believe God’s presence resides in shady motel rooms where bank robbers hide out and hookers pleasure patrons, but why do we think that? Why do we assume God would only be present in sanitized places?

One of the things I love about God is how he enjoys defying my stereotypes of him. Like that awkward moment in a conversation when you’re trying to find a comfort level, so you over compensate with laughter only to realize they weren’t joking. That’s how God keeps me guessing. The moment I think He is truth he reveals his graceful side. When I assume there’s wiggle room He doesn’t budge.

It’s stories like Jacob’s that call into question my beliefs about grace, blessing, and the kinds of places God reveals himself. He sat around the camp fire with a fugitive on the run. He skipped lunch to sit with a woman with five divorces, and He chose to be born in a barn. From the beginning, you could always find him in the places you’re least likely to look.

The first page of the Bible, says,

“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering…”

That sounds like something He would do—hover in an empty, dark, formless place. That’s always been his style. I tend to think God enters a room like a bride being introduced at her reception— with applause, cameras, and fanfare. But the more I get to know him the more He’s like the quiet guy at the corner table minding his business, He keeps to himself but if you get him talking the conversation makes the night.

When your life feels like it’s not taking shape, be encouraged that formless places don’t bother God. When life is empty and dark, don’t assume he’s absent, he’s not. He’s hovering. He’s in that place you’re in a hurry to move on from, ever present, just hovering. Waiting for you to realize, “God is in this place, and I never knew it.”

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