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Thursday, January 19, 2012

When you want God to leave you alone

"Is it possible to just ask God to leave you alone?"

I was asked this today while on Facebook chat. I think this is a very common experience amongst those who have grown up in the church and have been exposed to Church doctrines at an early age. Many of us (including myself) have known how our lives should look because we've learned the description of what a Christian looks like, but often times have found ourselves falling short of it. Its like describing anything really; take a Narwhal for instance, and talk about how it is a whale in the same family as the Beluga whale, that it has a long helical tusk extending from its upper left jaw, a mottled black and white pattern, and that it lives in the Arctic ocean, and once you are finished talking about it, you know whether something is a Narwhal or not based on how it matches the description. We hear what these creatures called Christians are supposed to look like and when we find ourselves a compatible as a square peg is to a round hole, we either disengage or hyper-engage from trying to fit the mold. The truth is, all these descriptions are helpful, but they are not everything. If we pursue Christian morals for the sake of earning a right standing with God, we end up becoming moral deists who believe in a god that owes them salvation and a good life because they were able to follow the rules. The thing with Christianity is that it is much more consuming than just physical and behavioral features. It affects our hearts, and when it comes to the matter of the heart, I have found that words rarely do a good job in describing the process that the heart goes through.

There is this shared reality that we have all been taught how we should live life and how our lives should look as Christians, but rarely do we see symmetry in how things are to how things should be. In fact, when we take a look at all the descriptive language for morality that seems to accompany the Christian faith, we become overwhelmed by it and either find ourselves defeated and unmotivated by how daunting it is OR we begin to quickly write out a checklist of things we must do to fit the description. In other words, we rely on our own efforts to look like Christ - as we are called to be imitators of Him.

As much as God can, and has, used this to help people experience Him, the problem with this is that it negates what Christ did on the Cross as complete. We will all work while we are on this earth, in fact, there is not one person I know (unless if they are so consumed with sloth and laziness) that doesn't like to live productively. At the very least, they want to work to survive, but everyone you talk to, if pushed, will come to a place where they express their passions and by definition, our passions produce a willingness to work. The word passion is rooted in the word suffering, thus, to be passionate about something is to be willing to suffer for something. Suffering also requires a tremendous effort and energy, and if you read my post on Romans 5, you will see that suffering and hope are very much linked together. Hope is the thing that drives us into the future and suffering is often times the motivation behind our hope. What Christ did on earth, is perfectly beautiful in every sense of the word. When we take a look at something so beautiful, we aren't appalled by it, but drawn to it. Beauty is magnetic.

So, to my friend who asked, "Is it possible to ask God to leave you alone?" I have several responses.

1. Yes, but do you know what you are really asking?
In our conversation, you said that you want to go at your own pace, but you feel like God is pushing hard against you.
Whenever someone who has nothing to gain from you wants something of you, it usually means that what he wants from you is something he sees you 1. desperately need and 2. would benefit from in more ways than you could imagine. I've seen this happen on the human level. Take mentors for example, if you are someone who has had a good mentor in your life, you will know that when a mentor pushes you to do something or go somewhere, that it isn't because they benefit from it, but because you benefit from it.

To say that you want God to slow down his invasion in your life is like a blind person asking the doctor who develops the ability to cure blindness to take their time in restoring sight. There are certain fears that exist with vision if you've been blind all your life, but the reality is, life is better if you can see where you are going, who you are talking to, and what you are experiencing. Some realities will be harder to absorb, but being able to see will change your life. When we know God, we become aware of a whole different reality that doesn't make us blind to what we already see, but helps us to see what we already see with more clarity.

2. Consider why you want God to leave you alone.
10 times out of 10, there is an idolatry in the heart that is going on when we want less of God then He wants of us. Sometimes, it is the fact that we are comfortable and don't want any disturbance in our lives that takes us off the track we are on (anything that requires straining effort and change is a bother). Other times, we are working so hard to get somewhere that we don't want anything to distract us from being able to get to that place (usually because we think that getting there will provide us with ultimate fulfillment). Often, we don't want to lose control over what is going on in our lives, we want to define what is or isn't important to us and how our lives should look (as long as we are in control, we can tolerate just about anything). Many times, we care more about what other people will think about us that prevents us from wanting to obey.

Whatever the case may be, there is usually a desire in us to define what will and won't fulfill us in life. We have this sense that we have life figured out to the best of our own abilities and that whatever someone else says cannot really grasp the complexity of our experiences, our thoughts, our emotions, and our desires. In fact, we won't admit it, but we truly believe that we know better than God (at least when it comes to our own lives). We want God to leave us alone because we think at least for now, we know ourselves better than God knows us.

When getting to know God, we often times have questions about Him that make us ask if He is "safe." In the book "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," Susan asks Mr. Beaver whether Aslan is a "safe" lion (C.S. Lewis wrote Aslan in as the character to symbolize God). To this, Mr. Beaver responds, "'Course he isn't safe, but he's good," putting to ease that although God's holiness is greater than man's comprehension, that His nature and character are good and trustworthy.

The struggle we are really going through when we want God to leave us alone is one of trust and submission. We want to know whether submitting to Him will REALLY be better than if we just lived our lives the way we think and feel we should. God is a good God, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. We must not hold onto our own notions of what may be best for our lives when the God who created the universe is looking to lead you personally. Will He lead us to where we want to go? Probably not. But where He leads us will be so much better than we could've imagined for ourselves that we will look back at what we thought we wanted and see how short sighted we were to begin with. What an honor it is to have the God that holds all things together to pursue us.

1 comment:

  1. um you never answered the question.
    "yes but" is not much of an answer.
    if you don't know the answer then don't claim that there is one.