For my three-year-old daughter, Hazel, there is no place like a bathroom for theological conversation. Feet dangling off the edge of the toilet, she ponders the mysteries of God. Some of her words have jarred me.
She recently mused, “You know, Mom, God can hear you. He can hear you even if you’re talking to your friend.”
I said, “That’s true. God can hear you even if you are just thinking.”
She was not interested in my contribution and went on as if I hadn’t spoken, “He can hear you even if you talk like this,” and then she mouthed some words silently. I nodded.
Hazel stared at the bathroom floor for a minute, deep in thought, and said, beginning quietly as if to herself, “and he’s down the drain…” and then, louder, with the exasperation of one confounded by a mystery, “I don’t know why he’s down there!”
A little shocked I asked, “Why is God down the drain?”
Hazel looked up at me and nearly shouted, “BECAUSE HE’S EVERYWHERE!”
Of course, she’s right. If God is everywhere, then God is down the drain. God-in-the-drain is basic Christian orthodoxy. But I hadn’t considered the drain. I hadn’t considered that God’s omnipresence extends to places like that. But it does, because this whole place, including the drain and whatever slime that coats it, only exists because God loves it. In the words of Robert Farrar Capon, “He likes it; therefore, it stays. The whole marvelous collection of stones, skins, feathers, and string exists because at least one lover has never quite taken his eye off it.”
At the end of the book of Job, when God finally speaks into Job’s suffering, we see God’s attention to all things, great and small, from the dimensions of the earth’s foundation to the wild ox and the ostrich.
The doctrine of God’s omnipresence can sometimes feel so impersonal, so beyond us, but in those chapters of Job it is intimate, particular. “Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth? They crouch down and bring forth their young, their labor pains are ended.” God’s eye is on the doe who gives birth in the thicket, with no human eyes to watch it, no marketable value, no purpose other than his pleasure. God attends even to her as she crouches in the pains of labor. God is at once everywhere, and still so near.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by Hazel’s insight. Even the drain is not outside of God’s purview and presence. There is no where that is apart from God’s love. I take that with me through my days. With David I ask, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”
Nowhere. Not even down the drain.