A Little Context For Me

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

If There Is A God, Where Is He?

This post is part of conversation. I decided to include an edited version of that exchange to give some context for what will follow.

Anonymous: If there is a God, where is he? I want to believe. But it’s been 2000 years since God even made his alleged appearance. I mean, if he cares, where is he?
Me: I am getting ready to walk out the door, but I need to come back to this. I so hear you! I was asking the same thing not too long ago. 
Anonymous: I am glad to hear that you at one time felt the same way. Because it gives me hope. 

The easiest and probably smartest thing for me to do would be to stick to all the pretty church answers on this one. You know a few historical facts, a couple of clichés, and an encouragement to “just keep believing.” But let’s be honest, those things are often more of frustration than help. And to be even more honest, I really don’t know what else I have to offer other than to say you are not alone.

I had to smile when I read that your last message. The idea that knowing that about me gives any hope is one of the more amusing things I have ever encountered. I guess it is because you are on the outside looking in, and I am on the inside looking out. I actually had to step outside myself for a bit and try to imagine what I must look like to someone else. I know I am busy with the Scandalous stuff, I do posts here, and I talk a lot about God and what I think about him. I suppose that has to look like some pretty massive faith, but don’t let me fool you. Faith is tricky thing to find and to hold onto, and I don’t think the battle to keep our faith is ever really over – or if it is then I haven’t reached that place.

The first time I lost my faith was right after my divorce. I had prayed so hard for God to save my marriage, to help me be a better wife, or to fix my husband. When God didn’t answer any of those prayers, I prayed that one of us would die. I had bought into the lie that divorce was never an option, and I believed that I had stay in my abusive marriage if I was to be a good Christian girl. When that didn’t happen, and I knew that I had to leave, I believed that God had failed.

There were only two reasons, in my mind, why God would fail to fix my marriage:

1. He was not strong enough to do so.
2. He did not care enough to do so.

Now, if God was not strong enough to save my marriage then, obviously, he wasn’t worthy of being called God. And if he didn’t care enough to save my marriage then why should I care about him?

Over the next four years I would fought to rebuild my faith – not that I realized that was what I was doing. I just thought I was screaming my anger at the heavens with some sort of twisted death wish. I was so hurt and angry that I often didn’t have the words to express what I was feeling, so sometimes I just screamed. There was part of me that even hoped that I would make God mad, mad enough to take me out with bolt of lightning as punishment for my blasphemies and curses, because even his anger would have been better than being abandoned.

Now I know that there was a part of me that never stopped believing that God was real, but it was that part of me that made me so mad. If I truly believed that he was did not exist then my anger would have been foolish. It would have been pointless, and probably a good indicator that I really had lost my mind, because really? Who gets that furious with their imaginary friend?

And that was the first step to realizing that I still believed, that my faith wasn’t entirely lost. I knew he was there, my hurt, frustration, and anger with him was my first shred of evidence that he was real. Sure, I couldn’t see or touch him. I couldn’t hear his voice or introduce him to my friends. I just knew that somewhere in my rage there was someone to rage at.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in all of this was that for the first time I was taking God seriously. I mean really seriously. I wasn’t playing pretty church games with him or trying to buy him off with good Christian girl behavior. I was letting him see me – the real me. The me who was broken, bloody, and pissed off. The me I don’t show in public. The me I keep locked up and hidden away from the world lest someone decided that hauling me off in one of those fancy white jackets that tie in back needs to be done for my own good. The me that I only let to play when I am with people I trust. And I have to tell you, that me ain’t pretty or polite. Not many people can handle her.

But God did. He just waited for me to cool off, settle down, for the sting to leave some of the wounds. He didn’t run away or try to rush me through what I now know was a grief over so many failed dreams. He didn’t interrupt my ravings or tell me that I was being irrational. He just waited.
For four long years, he waited knowing that the only interaction I was willing to have with him was to dish out some more abuse in his direction.

Then one day when I was ready, he showed up – no, wait, that is wrong. He showed me how he had always been there. I just wasn’t ready to see him until that moment.

Sometimes the hardest part of faith is being okay with the fact that God is sovereign. It means that he gets to set the terms and limitations of everything, even when and how he is going to reveal himself in our lives. Of course, his timing is never what we would demand and how he chooses to appear in our lives is seldom what we think we want. The thing is that no matter when or how he decides to play out that moment, you will know that it could not have happened one second sooner and his way was so much better than you could have imagined.

I don’t have any formulas for how to make God appear, not even for myself. All I know is that if we keep chasing him, he will be found. It might take a while, and I pray that for you it won’t be four years, but if it is I promise you it is worth it. That is the only hope I have to offer, but if you could see it from the inside out like I do you would know that is one of the greatest hopes we can ever offer another.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Everything Happens For A Reason - An Emily Rant

Ya’ll need to hold on to your hats and buckle up for this one. I have had it, and I am gearing up to sound harsh, judgmental, and downright mean, but you know what? I don’t give a flying rip.

Yesterday, I sat with a woman in tears. And if you know me, you know I would just assume you pull my fingernails out rather than try to comfort someone sobbing their eyes out about how their life is falling apart, but I did because while I can be rather cold hearted at times, I thought it was the right thing to do. I let her go until she calmed down, and then she said something to me that made me want to slap her – “I have been doing everything right and following all the things that God has told me to do, and not breaking any of the rules he has laid out for my life. I just want to know when is it going to be my turn to get blessed?”

Seriously? Sister, I know your life, and I can tell you that first sentence is a flat out lie. I don’t know if it is one you bought into, one you manufactured in that little messed up mind, or if you really believe that you are without sin, but, sweetie, honey, you have not been doing what God told you to do, and you are definitely not doing everything right.

Now, let me just clarify that I do NOT believe that doing everything right is a prerequisite for receiving God’s blessing. That’s just bad theology. The truth is God gives us way more than anyone of us deserves.

Somebody is whining, “What about the starving children in Africa? Did they deserve that?” Come on, let’s get real for a second. Number one that is stupid cop out when I just watched you have a meltdown over the fact your cable is getting cut off. You don’t give a rip about the starving kids in Africa or you would send that $50+ a month to making sure that at least a few of them got fed. You start doing that and we will talk about the kids in Africa. Until then stop using them as some great gift from the cosmos to avoid my second point.

Which is – God is holy. Let me unpack that for you, it means that he is so much greater and more than you and I will comprehend. He set apart, wholly other, and apart from his decision to love us has no cause to become entangled in this mess of a world that we inhabit. He only does so because for some inexplicable reason he has decided he desires to know and be known by us. Any revelation of himself that may be deign to give us should bring us to our knees in awe, but we are such self-centered buffoons that we think we are doing him some sort of favor by reposting Bible verses on Facebook.

But back to my friend and her little problem, or should I say friends and their little problems?

The truth is a whole lot of you are buying into the same damn lie that you are a good person who deserves better than life doled out to you. That just because you haven’t murdered someone God should be scraping and bowing to you for such restraint, but the all the while you are doing what you please, when you please with the rest of your life.

Oh, sure you will send me a message lamenting the fact that your husband is a douche bag, but neglect to tell me you have been slipping around with a guy on the side. You will tell me how awful it is you don’t have money to feed your kids or your dog, but I can see that bag of weed in your car. You will tell me how everyone is so mean to you, but you can’t be bothered to show the slightest courtesy to anyone you don’t think has the means to help you. You will bemoan the fallen state of this world, but when is the last time you fed or found shoes for someone in dire need of both or either?

You see, I am running out of patience and mercy for each and every one of you claiming to be a Christian but only act as if it is some type of game token you get to trade in for stuffed bunny. I am fed up with all of you who want to act as if you are the victim of some grand and cosmic plot to ruin your life just because you didn’t get the lollipop or the gold star.

Life is hard, and a life of faith is harder. It demands things of you that will make you uncomfortable, that  will make you hurt, and will make you bleed. The life of faith is a life of sacrifice, and I am not talking about throwing an extra twenty in the offering plate. Big whoop! Do you thing that God needs your money? Do think he will be bribed or bought off? Exactly how small is your god anyways?

No, the God of the Bible demands more. He demands you, all of you. That includes your time, your energy, your money, and yes, even your sexuality. He wants it all, and he has laid out some very simple rules about how you give it to him. Rules that you don’t get to rewrite or ignore because they are inconvenient or uncomfortable. Rules that you don’t get to wave away or water down when they get in the way of your supposed happiness. Rules that were put in place to make sure that nothing gets between you and the God who should be the most important thing in your life.

Am I saying that following the rules gets you salvation? No, I am not. I am saying that when you truly get it through your thick head and hardened heart that God loves you, and I mean stupid passionately loves you, you want to return that love. You want to do the things that please him, and you will ruthlessly rip out everything in your life that stands between you and him. You fight anyone and anything that threatens to intrude upon that relationship, and you will not be content with giving him anything less than your everything because you realize that he is your everything.

So that internet flirtation? It has got to stop. The extra pens from the office that fall into your purse? Need to stop coming home with you. Cussing the slow driver in front of you? Not an option. The addiction that controls your life? Suck it up, and get the help you need to get over it. The guy or gal that you keep tripping over on your way out of a bed you should have never been in?  Who said our faith didn’t require human sacrifice? Time to give them up too.

Look, the point is that it doesn’t matter what it is that you think it is your right to have or what you deserve. I can guarantee you aren’t getting either one right now. And the only reason you aren’t is that in God’s infinite mercy he has decided to give you a little more time and space to get with the program. For some of us, he’s turning up the heat. He’s letting us bear the consequences of our bad decisions, and he is letting us reap the harvest of the lies we sowed. He is not doing it because he is cruel or unfair. He is doing it because he loves us, and he wants us to see how our actions have not been honoring either to him or to ourselves. He is helping us understand that everything he requires of us is for our good, not his because he is already good. And oh yeah, changing course can hurt and if usually comes at a pretty high cost to our pride and comfort, but God was never a fan of pride and the peace he offers is makes comfort look like worn out blanket left on the side of the road.

And hey, if you want all this stuff you think you deserve, go on and get it. He will let you have it, but stop whining when he doesn’t miraculously show up to make things easy on you. For while God’s love is unconditional, expressions of that love are not. And demanding that he bless you while you wallow in your sin is like demanding your spouse be faithful while you act like the town bicycle. So you choose, but think about the decision you are making and have enough backbone to be honest about what you are choosing.