Archive for April, 2002

Arguing with God

Wednesday, April 24th, 2002

Practically everyone in the Bible spends most of their time complaining to God about how unfair everything is, but not many people actually get him to change his mind.

(Very loose paraphrase indeed of Genesis 18:20-33)

God: “I’m going to kill everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah because they are so evil.”

Abraham: “What if there are some good people, 50 say: then you’d be killing 50 innocent people! Surely you wouldn’t do that – don’t you always do right?”

The Lord: “OK, I’ll spare them if there are 50 righteous people.”

Abraham [presumably reeling from this wholly unexpected response, presses home his advantage]: “Now that I’ve been brave and said this to you: well, if you’d do that for 50 people, why not 45? Would you kill everyone because of 5 people?”

God: “OK, if there are 45 people I won’t destroy them.”

Abraham: “What about 40 then?”

God: “OK, 40 it is.”

Abraham [getting nervous]: “Please don’t be angry, but what 30?”

God: “OK I won’t kill them if there are 30.”

Abraham: “Well, I’ve spoken already, so I’ll go on: make it 20.”

God: “Alright – 20.”

Abraham: “What about only 10?”

God: “OK we’ll make it 10.”

[God leaves before he gets beaten down any more.]

What is going on here? Why are my prayers not like this? Why do we prefix every request with “if it’s you’re will …” when we never mean it, or if we do mean it we’re obviously not praying about stuff we care about. We are not Jesus, and we really shouldn’t pretend we have his obedient spirit.

Abraham, arguably God’s favourite human being ever, was God’s favourite because he spoke his mind and had a real relationship with him. In this case he practically emotionally blackmails God, saying “I thought you were good – why not act like it?” Why don’t we plead with God in this way about, say, the killing and hatred in the Middle East?

Because we perpetuate the lie between us that God wants us bland.

~ and Goliath

Wednesday, April 17th, 2002

The people most likely to read this (and reply) are people that are interested in God and their relationship with him. Because of this I welcome all replies since I have no answers to offer.

For me the battle of faith lies not with the Goliath but more the cleaning of teeth. What I mean is when faced with obvious questions I can see the answer: can God forgive anything? Yes. Can God do anything? Yes. I trust that you too could answer the same questions with the same ease as me: BUT.

What about those things which don’t bring about the end of the world or are grand enough to write about in legends of old? My way of eating soup is not to my mum’s liking. I know this is trivial, but that is the whole point, that is what life is primarily made up of.

Who are the masses? What do they do? I may well have been one of the soldiers lining up knowing full well that if I went up against Goliath I would surely die. I might say that if you had been stood next to me and asked why I didn’t go up to fight, `Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ would swiftly have come to mind. Yet at the same time if a superior ordered me to go and fight him, I would like to believe I would have obeyed. Yet we will never know what happened to them or whether or not they had a life full of purpose and meaning – the soldier, the baker, the blacksmith etc. who just live out their lives serving God trying to do everything as best they can on the level. Yet they slay no Goliath, they heal no dead people.

I do not believe that God only requires people of heroic nature but also those of human nature. He does not require someone with any kind of special ability. So I freely choose God.

I also say that we should be able to get the same sense of fulfilment by being just a human following God and not dependent on how many Goliaths I slay.

I now say to you that I now long for a fulfilled and purposeful life. I have given my life to God and I don’t know what is next. I feel the continual finger of despair and underachievement points my way. Yet where to go and what to do? And how should I eat my soup?

I seek to have more than just contentment with my life: I seek to have fulfillment. How do I go about achieving my goal when I have no great physical ability or sharpness of mind? And to top it off I’m not sure what I’m fulfilling!

~

What I said at my baptism

Monday, April 15th, 2002

I recently got baptised (at a Baptist Church, where they do adult baptism rather than soon after birth), and I gave a little speech, which I thought people might be interested in …

The reason I’m here today is because I have a relationship
with God. Until I started to think about what I would say
today, I would have hesitated to say that, because I don’t
have `conversations’ with him, I don’t hear his voice out
loud or in my head, I don’t see him, I don’t feel him. So
how can I say I have a relationship with him?

Well certainly, because I don’t do all those things, it’s
not like my relationships with other people, but it really
is true that God is a person, and I `know’ him (a bit),
and he knows me. How do I know this? Well, really, it’s
because of a particular low point in the relationship.

I’ve been a Christian for longer than I can remember, except
for a brief period when I was a teenager. Basically, I’ve
always been pretty sure God existed. But about 2 years ago,
I started to feel that God had drawn away from me. I felt
dry and alone. It’s hard to describe it in any more detail
except to say that I couldn’t feel God near me. This was
particularly weird as I hadn’t realised that I had been
able to feel him before.

This was an extremely hard experience – I was suddenly missing
something I had depended on for my whole life without knowing
it. I felt bitter and angry with God, although for some
reason I never doubted his existence.

A week or so ago, I was wondering what to say today and I
knew I wanted to say something about this dry time, but
I also wanted to talk about what being a Christian is. I
thought to myself that the `right answer’ to the question
`what is a Christian?’ is someone who has a relationship
with God, but that I couldn’t really say that with confidence.
Suddenly it struck me that I could: in fact, how could I
deny this relationship when I so obviously missed it when
it changed? This time of feeling far from God proves to
me not only that he exists, but also that I rely on him
in a way I never recognised before.

So what was he doing? Why did he make me so unhappy by drawing
away from me? By the way, I do believe that he drew away
from me rather than the other way round: not that I didn’t
do anything wrong (far from it!) but I did seek him desperately
and often, and couldn’t find him.

Well, here’s a thought I had: I knew some people once whose
16 year old daughter got pregnant, and they made the decision
to make her move out of home. They didn’t do this to punish
her, but to give her the best possible chance of becoming
a good mother to her child, instead of passing the buck
to her parents and relying on them to support her.

It doesn’t matter whether you think this was a good decision
or not (in fact she is now a very good mother!): I think
that what God was doing with me was a similar thing – he
had to push me into a very uncomfortable place for reasons
I couldn’t understand at all. Can you imagine how those
parents felt? I imagine God felt pretty bad too, but he
must have had his reasons.

Now the neat conclusion to this would be to say that this
dry feeling went away, and now everything is alright, and
I understand what God was doing. But, it’s not quite that
simple. For a start, I haven’t got the whole feeling of
God’s presence back – perhaps a little bit, but not like
there used to be. I don’t think he’s ever going to give
it back – that’s something I’m going to have to live without.
What’s more, I wouldn’t say that I’m fully through the process
of forgiving him for the hurt I felt.

I’m not here because I’ve got a perfect relationship with
God, but because I haven’t. If I had a perfect relationship
with God I wouldn’t need saving, which is what baptism is
a symbol of. What I know is that I want to be with God,
and I also know that he wants to be with me. What God asks
of me is that I seek him – that’s what I’m doing today,
and every day – trying to get near him because I love him,
but acknowledging that it’s a lifelong task. I chose the
song we sang `By your side’ because
it says `by your side I would stay’ not `by your side I
am staying’: it expresses that same desire for closeness
to God, which is sometimes frustrated.

I chose the reading (Isaiah 49:15-16) because it makes the
point that God feels this frustration just as much as we
do. He desperately wants to be with us, to be friends with
all of us: it hurts him to be apart from us. It hurts him
so much that he died, actually died, in order to make it
possible for us to be close to him, if we choose to accept
him.