Sunday, November 18, 2007


Incomprehensible Gift

Folks are talking about broken faith, broken dreams, wondering where God is. The topic engenders many comments, leading to more discussion.



Gary, again

The common note is "Where is God in my life?" As I read these all I could do was look around at the signs of God's presence in my life. An embarrassment of riches, a rain I didn't ask for but needed, a problem that I've tried to solve and am finally reaching some accommodation with.

It's hard to write about this. Some will think I'm showing off, taking pride in God's fingerprints on me. Others won't understand any of it. "Where's the fruit," they'll ask. And some might think that I'm special.

Well, we're all special. I'm convinced that God gives every one of us as much as He's allowed to. I make no claim to anything special other than need: without God's fingers on me I wouldn't still be here. And that is my only claim as to the quality of my witness: I'm still here.

So, why are so many dissatisfied with the quality of their walk with Jesus? Many of them, following what they've been taught, have good reason to be dissatisfied. I've never been in a church that taught people to reach out, as that bleeding woman did, to Jesus for healing from the depth of desperation. No one is encouraged to wrestle with God as Jacob did. God is treated as the ultimate houseguest around whom you don't want to make any mistakes. Self-judgment runs deep in us and we certainly wouldn't want to upset the Judge of the Universe.

Well, His judgment is reserved to those who haven't trusted Jesus to cover them with his white raiment. Those of us who've acknowledged need and turned to Jesus have nothing to fear. I believe that God is far more interested in an honest cry from the heart, either curses or praise, than He is in any number of fancy worded prayers-as-preachment.

It is an awesome thing. The One who will judge this world lives in each of us, like the elephant in the living room that everyone tries to ignore. He's not going away. How do you live with Him? Some put curtains around Him. Some distract themselves with all kinds of work. Some take the route of self-pity or self-abnegation, trying to stoop lower than God will reach. I have tried to simply ignore Him, map out His presence so I can just walk around Him. I'm quite adept at reducing paths to habit, which is why God has to be so creative in finding ways to get my attention again. It's a good thing Jesus took my judgment.

Rules don't make followers of Jesus. You can't walk this path alone. If you're terrified and just can't face God, fine. Just don't close the door. If you're angry, go ahead and yell at him. Just don't close the door. If your heart is torn in half, cry. Don't close the door. How to get close to God? Keep the door open. You don't have to go out there where He is, and you can tell him to stay out of your room, but don't close off His light.

He's calling us to do something impossible: Live with Him. Each of us is special in His sight and He knows our names, every one. He has counted the number of hairs on our heads.

How did I get here? As usual, by looking for something else. I wanted relationships with other people. That didn't happen.

God starts at the beginning. We all tend to want to skip the foundation and build the fancy stuff. Castles in the air. God starts with the roots, and naturally I resist. That stuff is confusing and different. Naturally I resist, which makes the process more painful than it might be. I doubt there's any way to make the walk easy but it is possible. Most of my problem is fear. I am, in some ways, extremely conservative. I don't like things that rattle the principles I live by, which is why the last few months have been very difficult.

When I got saved I had no idea what I was getting into. Soon after that I ran into the idea that God thinks human relationships are important. This idea connected to something deep in me and I took off after it. God was, at the time, trying to introduce me to Himself. That seemed crazy to me, irrational, so I didn't pay attention but retained the idea that relationships are important. Well, this was a sort of self-rape so it's no wonder I couldn't force my solitary self in that direction. The result has been years of conflict: force met by stronger force. It turns out that I'm very strong in self-defense. I'll dig in and not be moved. Attacks by people, by psychologists, by any perceived enemy: I know how to keep from being crushed. The response was automatic. People would get close, I'd perceive the attack, and defend myself in the way that seemed best.

This year several people got caught in this process; I've set a new record for screwing up relationships. No surprise, as I know very little about reality here. Hopeless.

Not exactly. I do have an example. I'm trying to give it all up, but God still lives in the courtyard of the castle I've defended so staunchly all these years. He doesn't attack, although He has stepped in when I've been about to do something really stupid and has gotten downright snarky when I've worked at not believing Him.

Right now... I still attempt to force myself to feel in organized ways. I attempt to fit life into a rational process so that I can comprehend it all, so that I can know what's coming and be safe. God is preached as the one who will tear down everything and bring about change. This is true, but the process by which He does it is, at least in my experience, as gentle as such a radical act can be. It is not God's intent to cause pain. We do that quite well all by ourselves.

So, what can anyone else get from this ramble? That we all start from forgiveness. And, when everything turns to shit go ahead and quit. Just keep the door open.

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