Rediscover another side of the Creator.
Living in these uncertain days of the COVID-19 pandemic has given me the time to consider my relationship with God. Since Brad, my first husband’s diagnosis of cancer, I had been on cautious terms with God.
A different kind of relationship with God
I’ve been a deeply religious person since I was a child. My kind of spiritual relationship with God is different. Personal. Conversational.
Since toddlerhood, I’ve talked to God — about the big things and small ones. He has been my closest friend. It has been his shoulder I run to when scared, hurt, or confused. He’s where I go to fret, worry, or rant.
And here’s the thing I don’t tell many people fearing it will make me look crazy: God sometimes answers back. Not every time or about everything. His silence surrounding my latest angst sometimes irks me. Those are the times I want to hear from him the most. No, he speaks to me on his terms and about what he thinks I need to understand.
When he speaks in an internal voice to me, it sounds distinct and clear. He usually prefers to impress a sense of a message on me that feels different than the sound of my own internal dialogue. Over the years, he has reassured me, challenged me, and directed me.
Loss strained my relationship with God
Things changed between God and me when Brad got sick. I’m sad to say my marriage had been the first substantial thing in my life. I felt like I’d come home when I met him. It provided me acceptance, predictability, and loyalty. Stuff I had yearned for but only had experienced fleetingly. Our marriage wasn’t perfect, but it was good.
And before I was ready, Brad was leaving me. He was dying.
Then he was gone. And along with him, the life we had created together.
To say I was angry doesn’t even begin to capture the intensity of my rage. For the first year of widowhood, I was an open and raw wound. In public, I would plaster on a polite smile to cover the seething fury.
I was most angry at God.
Angriest with God
How could he have done that to me? To any of us? Why do we suffer these grand losses? Doesn’t God know us better?
For a long time after Brad’s death, I could barely breathe a prayer. I went to church resentfully and wept as I sang the worship songs.
I’ve seen the same looks of pain on the faces of others. Most of us at one time or another have suffered devastating losses, especially now.
When we are hurting, the world seems filled with happy couples and families. Don’t we wonder why us and not them? Doesn’t it feel like God must be standing off in the sidelines and passively watching as our lives blow apart?
My many losses were suffocating me.
It is often preached we should trust God in all things. That there is a plan and purpose to everything we experience. In the midst of pain, these formerly comforting verses might feel shallow, even insulting.
Always the psychologist — even to myself — I needed to understand what drove my reaction. As I dug around, I discovered my faith had been built on the erroneous belief that my goodness entitled me to a good life.
God owed me.
I remember one particular conversation with God. Upset, I started cleaning the house as a way to dissipate my feelings, all the while ranting at God. As I swept the back porch, I reminded him of his promise never to give any of us more suffering or pain than we could bear. As I said it, I gave God a mental shake of my fist.
Then I heard him answer.
Promises never to leave me
He said, “I never said that. That verse is about temptation.” (1 Cor 10:13)
I gulped, feeling chastised. Surely God, as the source of inspiration for the Bible, knew his text.
But God wasn’t done. He added, “I said, ‘I would never leave nor forsake you!’”
My mind flew to the seven times throughout the Bible God tells his people he will never abandon them. It was Jesus’ last words before he ascended into heaven. (Deut 31:6, 31:8, Josh 1:5, 2 Kings 1:16, Prov 3:3, Matt 21:19, Heb 13:5)
Then it hit me what I had inadvertently done. Something all too common among those of faith. Our way of understanding God sometimes strips him of his personhood. And at that moment, we become guilty of objectifying him.
In the privacy of the counseling room, I’ve heard believing clients make the same error. Turn God into our own personal grant-wishing machine, instead of us celebrating his autonomy.
In the wake of Brad’s death and now in the middle of this pandemic, God’s words that day have come back as a reminder.
Asking for a new experience of God
So, I’m doing something scary. I’m asking God to show up in a new way. To have a new experience of him. To meet him from a position of choice rather than obligation. One of interest and longing rather than fear.
In many ways, I feel like a teenager in terms of my relationship with God. Testing to see if he will still love me if I mess up or stray too far outside the lines.
Don’t we all want to know if he will support us, as we are?
I don’t exactly know how to go about this, but I want to find out. It’s a new place — like walking blind in a strange territory without a roadmap.
As someone who’s grown up in a strict religious home, these questions feel risky. The black-and-white teachings I grew with are comfortingly familiar. Known.
Don’t we all hunger for a real relationship with God? Something more than just an empty spiritual practice. For many us, however, venturing into a new discovery of God feels scary and messy.
Theologian A. W. Tozer, in his book, The Pursuit of God, wrote, “Outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear.” That captures the way I want to feel about God. Sold-out, alive, and in love.
I think God is cheering us on. After all, hasn’t his Word declared he wants intimacy with us? He’s the Creator who pursues and interacts with us, his creation.
Staring out my patio door, I realize that this is my forty-first day of self-isolation. I never dreamed I could do it. To spend this kind of time single. Alone. It has been a stretching yet victorious experience.
In this odd window of this time, I think we all have been given a gift. An opportunity to find God in a new way. Many of us now have an unprecedented opportunity to sit with God and to rediscover him again.