For the past few nights I have had trouble sleeping- every night I go to be bed with a sense of dread and today, I have finally discovered why. As I pondered what has been troubling me I realized that the root cause is that I am grappling with the fundamentals of who God is… yes I know it is a scary thing to say since I have pretty much gone my whole life professing to be a Christian.
My overall view of God is very similar to what the bible says He is but relationally, I do not treat Him as a loving forgiving father. I have lived a greater portion of my life in a transactionary relationship with God and this has been enforced by church doctrines that overemphasize cause and effect- if you give, God gives back to you more; if you pray hard and loud enough for something, you move God into a favorable response; if you forgive, God forgives you; and if you sin you step out of God’s love and his protection and whatever happens to you is on you… and so on and so forth! I read my bible because I am convinced that as a good Christian this is what I need to do on a daily basis and I am afraid of that if I don’t then somehow I do not score brownie points with Him. Sometimes, I give even though I do not want to because I am afraid that if I am not generous then God will retaliate and not be generous towards me. At the start of every year I pray that no one in my family will die and I hold my breath for 365 days hoping that I don’t screw up so bad that God does not keep his end of the bargain. I walk on eggshells and tiptoe around God waiting for the other shoe to drop because I feel like at the drop of a hat He will take away every good thing He has given me- my life, my husband, my job, my home, my family. Every time my phone rings, my first thought is “This is it! your luck has finally run out and here comes the bad news”. I buy lottery tickets because I am so afraid that the day God decides to take away his provision and providence for my family we will be out in cold. Every step of my walk with God is a transaction- If I do this, then He will do that… If I read more of my bible or post on my blog like I promised God I would, then I earn enough points for the change of another day at life. Certainly God cannot forgive me for everything! He probably will find a way to punish me and so when bad things happen to me, I just need to accept it as God’s way of justice- making me experience the consequence of my sin even though he has forgiven me.
My whole life is filled with the fear of God but not the kind that that is holy and leads to deeper relationship. My fear of God keeps me up at night with dread. Cerebrally, I know God loves me but deep down in my heart I do not believe that God can love unconditionally. Where is the intersection between the mercy, the love, and the justice of God? How do I process unanswered prayers, dreams dashed, and hope deferred in the light of God’s love? I am not having a midlife crisis or a crisis of faith… this is the reality of my walk with God. There are certain areas of my relationship with God I have not been entirely honest with myself and God about. There are questions I have about God and about who He portrays Himself to be that I would like some insights into but have hidden under the Christian phrase “He is an unquestionable God” and so I accept concepts, doctrines and personalization of God that make no sense to me with consolations that I “will understand it better by and by”. In the meanwhile, my walk with God is very unfulfilling, shallow, robotic, and transactional. And you know the sad truth? I am not alone.
Some of you will read this and this will resonate with you right away and wonder what the next steps should be. Others who are farther along in their relationship with God will empathize and feel a need to reach out.. please do… (you can use the comments). Today, after coming to this realization, I decided to do something antithetical to what I would usually do, which is, to silence my thoughts with some comforting scripture or rebuke myself for my unbelief. Instead, I decided to go to God and ask for His help to navigate this. So for the next few weeks and months, I will be listening so closely to God as He helps me deal with this and I will keep you posted on what I hear. If you have some suggestions on great reads that will help me I’d be glad to hear them. If you want to offer up a prayer to God, I’d take that too. If you’ve walked this path before and you have advice, drop it in the comment box below.
George Guthrie, a bible scholar once said, “Your perseverance in the faith will be in direct proportion to the clarity with which you see who Jesus is, and what he has accomplished on your behalf”. I know God welcomes the opportunity for any of his children to want a deeper relationship with Him and see Him clearly for who He is- He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He says:
“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God…”Luke 18:16 ESV