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  • Ross Moughtin

Who knows where we are?

“This is not a circular.” I knew something was amiss as I opened the envelope and I wasn’t wrong: it was a penalty notice from a private parking company for £60 (if I paid promptly) My first reaction, once I recovered consciousness, was one of puzzlement. I’m always very disciplined when shopping at Aldi – I know I have one hour free parking but even so, I’m in and out. No visits to Costa when I park in the Two Saints car park. But to make their point the parking company helpfully provided two photos of my car arriving and leaving with a time stamp showing I had arrived at 4.25 pm and left at 6.15 pm on 1st September. There it was, captured by technology. The problem I could not remember what I was doing that day, several weeks earlier. But then I realised, I have enabled Google to track me. The location of my phone (i.e. me) is continuously tracked and recorded on their maps, as is Jacqui’s. Moreover, I have given permission for our daughters to track us in real time. So I searched for my movements on 1st September and to my delight it showed that I had arrived at the Two Saints retail park at 17.23 leaving some 22 minutes later. So I lodged an appeal, demonstrating that the time stamp on the car park camera was wrong – and to my delight I was successful. Even so I'm still waiting for my refund. I can understand how many people see Google timeline as an invasion on their civil rights. For the record you can delete everything that Google Maps knows about you – but it’s probably there in some server in New Mexico.

The point is that I’m not bothered about neither Google or my daughters knowing where I am or where I’ve been. After all, the probability of locating me at Anfield is negligible. And there are times – like contesting my parking fine – when we need a precise record of our movements. However, when it comes to search engines, to say the obvious Google has nothing on God. So the Psalmist may rejoice: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139:1f). Wherever we may go, God will know where we are. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139: 7f). The problem is that we may not want God to know where we are. Like Adam, we may seek to hide from his presence, even behind the bushes. Our instinct, as human beings, is to hide from him. We fear condemnation. As US bishop, Fulton J. Sheen, observes: “Ever since the days of Adam, man has been hiding from God and saying, ‘God is hard to find.’” However, you can’t shake God off that easily. You may know the Hound of Heaven, written by the Victorian poet Francis Thompson. I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years. . . . . I hid from Him, and under running laughter. But God does not give up in his relentless pursuit: Still with unhurrying chase, And unperturbèd pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, Came on the following Feet. And the hound of heaven finally corners his quarry Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’ . . . Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly? ‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’ For above all we may know Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. God with us in our fears and failures, our defeats and dangers. Such love cost him the cross, where God willingly goes to our place of deepest dread. As Corrie Ten Boom discerns “There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still.” It is for us simply to stand still and allow ourselves to be found, to be claimed by the risen Christ. No longer to hide from his presence but to enjoy his promise to be with us even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). This knowledge changes everything: I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139: 5f, Message translation) #presence #promise

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