(originally written September 6, 2010)
Oh boy. There is so much in my life that is being rocked right now… and that seems odd to say because on the surface, things are actually going very well. I am enjoying my newfound adventure, I am staying in a comfortable, friendly home, and I have been placed in contact with a seemingly great girl to have as a future roommate. So why this unsettling?
I believe it stems back to a challenge a man gave to me a few weeks ago. He said that I need to get God out of my box. I was offended… he obviously didn’t know me. I mean, I have loved God, worshipped Him, learned of Him, been hurt by Him, questioned Him, doubted Him, and I have spent this past year finally learning to haltingly trust Him. God wasn’t in a box for me; God was outside, large, inexplicable. I thought for sure this man’s word was wrong.
And yet, somehow, that phrase wouldn’t leave me. Who is God to me? What do I expect of Him? From Him? As those questions hovered over me, night and day, I started recognizing certain theological stances in my habits, in my patterns. When I had a great devotional time, it was never too long afterward that I “moved on” with my day. In fact, it was often on those days when I felt prompted to pick up my Bible again, or listen to a message, that I would say to myself, “nah, I already spent a good amount of time with my Bible today. I already did that.” This would make me feel less guilty for pursuing something else I considered pleasurable—reading a book, watching a movie, spending time on Facebook. I mean, obviously God and I were good—look at the time we spent together this morning.
And it wasn’t always the good stuff either. I noticed that I never became contemplative about God’s power or His mercy until I was good and scared about something. It might be that I was afraid that the rental car I had might get scratched and I had failed to get the extra coverage, or that I was alone in the house that night and someone was for sure going to break in and kill me. It was then that I (like a Catholic fingering the rosary) would repetitively commission the Lord to protect me and to keep me. It’s funny how I never gave Him thanks for the numerous times He has, for every morning when I wake up—when did I last praise God for allowing me to sleep in peace and safety throughout the entire night? – for all the times I’ve gotten in a car, or in any type of vehicle, and He has graciously steered others and their accidents away from me? Or the times when He has steered my own car out of the potential hazards of my own making? You see, I was expecting God to show up when I wanted Him to, and in the ways I wanted Him to, and I chalked up the normal every day stuff as just that… normal. Not divine providential grace. In the depths of my secret soul, I had made the eternal God reside in the confined shape of a vending machine.
When I say vending machine, I don’t simply mean the Santa Clause imagery—where I am just asking for help or for gifts or blessings or such. I mean, even my praise and worship has been tainted with this thinking. When I wanted to feel good, or feel “fuzzy” inside, I punched in the numbers for a God who was good and beautiful and kind. When I wanted to feel close to my family who was far away, I would enter the code to give thanks that I had a Heavenly Father always with me. Feeling spiritually hungry? Bam, I fed it. Desiring safety and security? Pow! It was at my fingertips. What separates this carnal mindset from the daily experiences of any Christ follower, is that it always revolved around my feelings. Gone were the times I desired God as a Father, and yet still praised Him as a Judge. Aborted were the days when I was lonely but decided to ease another’s loneliness instead of feeding my own self pity. You see, there was rarely any cross-bearing in my walk with Jesus. There was cross kneeling, cross thanking… even cross embracing, but few were the moments when I actually stood up, and despite my mental state, emotional roller coasters or spiritual famine, put that instrument of death on my own shoulders and started to walk. I see how infantile instead I had become in my faith… crying for my bottle, longing for a nap, waiting for others to clean up my mess. Humility, Gratitude, and Responsibility were banned from my nursery; instead I invited and locked in Coddling and Comfort.
So what does this mean? What am I learning? I’m not completely sure yet, but I am understanding this: God does not play by my rules, even when He seems to be. He actually doesn’t even acknowledge my rules. It is only and ever truly by His grace that I live and have my being. I am tainted, and even in my most honoring moments of true worship of this indescribable God, there is humanity clinging to my motives and my obedience. This awareness used to cause me to loathe myself and my mortal nature, but even that is a worship of self since I chose to use the awareness to focus on me, and not on Him. I now am stepping, slowly and wobbly as a child, into a recognition of how much greater my God ever was and is and will be. I’m stepping out of the cradle. My faltering is now for me the evidence of His immeasurably steady grace. My selfish ambitions and manipulative prayers only further cement in my soul that I seek a God who is not worried about my view of Him because He is self sufficient. He only reveals myself to me so that I may see Him clearer, in a new way that I have missed before. As I become decreased in my sight, He becomes increased. It is this beautiful, innately, and mercifully unfair equation. How much I love Him! How much more I want my love for Him to be purified! And even though He at this moment knows there is fear and worry about delving more into His divinity, He still holds me with tenderness and looks on my dust with patience. Who is this God???