Happily Rejecting the God of My Youth   2 comments

I’ve been staying with dad for 10 days, keeping an eye on him while his wife is in Australia.  Dad is a man of habit, finding comfort in a daily routine.  I think he would call it discipline.  Each morning he gets up, makes a cup of coffee, and takes it into his office where he has a long-established pattern of devotions: singing old hymns, reading the Bible, and praying through his list of requests.  I expect he would feel discombobulated all day if that pattern was knocked loose.

Each morning here I go for a walk along the Broad River Walkway.  At first I was taking along Barney, their border collie mix with long, thick, uncontrollable hair, but he kept falling behind, so I started walking alone.  The solitude crowded my head with thoughts, mostly reflections on childhood and its repercussions.

Broad River Walk

Broad River Walk

This morning, prompted by the choruses I sang with dad last night, I headed out to walk with the old hymnbook tucked under my arm.  The red cover was warn smooth and dark from years of family devotions, the ancient supportive tape on the corners blending seamlessly.  As I stood and watched the water cascade over the spillway that stretches between the banks, I flipped the book open and the pages divided at “Nearer My God to Thee.”  Those words dusted off cob-webbed memories of my deeply religious youth when I was “sold out to God” as we called it.  I spent hours in prayer and Bible reading, I listened to sermons and worship on the radio, on tape, and at church.  I read Christian authors and talked with Christian friends.

All this effort was to reach an oasis, relief for my parched soul, but the God I sought was a mirage.  The farther into the desert I pushed myself, year after year, the more lost I became, until I was crawling through the sand towards water that wasn’t there, and I finally collapsed.  Every step in the direction of a misconceived God is a step away from the true God.

I worshiped a God who was harsh and judgmental, and based on these assumptions, all my Bible reading and prayer and devotion simply drove me deeper into this skewed faith.  I read verses about God’s wrath and judgment that negated for me any verses about His gentleness and love.  Sermons about God’s kindness came across to me as soft and insubstantial, as merely a carrot to get me to work harder at being good so God would accept me.  The more I sang “Holy, Holy, Holy” the more unworthy and rejected I felt–who could ever measure up to absolute perfection?  I worked to strengthen my faith, but it was faith in God’s power and omniscience and righteousness that were scrubbed of any scent of His patience and mercy and grace.  That is, his power and omniscience and righteousness were frightening, not encouraging, the basis for his condemning me, not his rescuing me.

Love was there, but it was not foundational as these other attributes were.  Fundamentally, God was pissed off at me and could only be mollified by the death of his son.  Jesus kind of forced God into accepting me against his better judgment, bought God off so to speak.  The harder I worked to be the person God wanted me to be, the more I realized how far short I fell.  I heard Amy Grant’s song “My Father’s Eyes” and knew the look in those eyes: eternal disappointment.

This was not the kind of error that I could tweak my way out of.  It was fundamental, all encompassing.  It was not until my worldview, my belief system, crushed me beyond recovery that I was able to let go and discover the God in whom I now believe, a God of infinite grace.  It has taken many years to unlearn, discard, loosen my fearful grip from my long held false securities and to cling stubbornly to my new faith, my new God, my new life and relationships… and even a new Bible and hymnbook.  Nearer my God to thee.

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Posted August 9, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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2 responses to “Happily Rejecting the God of My Youth

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  1. Thanks for sharing from your heart, brother. I found this post very insightful. It brought to mind the following quote from one of my favorite Christian authors..

    “My idea of God is [often] not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.” C.S Lewis – A Grief Observed

    May He shatter every conception of Him in our minds and hearts that fails to be truly divine.

    • Good quote. Yes, we are all still in the learning curve… not just sorting things out in the brain, but in the heart and life, which takes far more time and focus… and pain and struggle. It seems there is no easy or simple or straightforward way to travel towards God.

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