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.