I would say that my relationship with God has been good, as long as things in my life are going well. When things began to fray around the edges, or completely fall apart, my knee-jerk reaction has been an angry, accusing diatribe along the lines of “If you really loved me, you would NEVER let this happen. But since you have let it happen, you need to fix it, now, and here’s how. Despite hearing countless Sunday morning messages of how God has changed lives, changed the world, performed miracles, and brought hope where there was none, my version of faith always left me feeling on the outside looking in, with more than my share of envy and puzzlement.
At various times in my life, I have “found Jesus”, which almost without exception, were the result of me really, really, really, wanting something (usually a horse, or a boyfriend). I grew up with all of the assurances of “Ask, and you shall receive”, and “if you truly believe, it will be yours.” I would pray fervently, swear to God that I had no doubts, and then wait for my miracle. As often as not, I would lose interest in my miracle before it had a chance to appear. I now see these non-miracles as perfect examples of George Strait’s song, “Sometimes God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”. It is entertaining to wonder what my life would be if I had gotten everything I asked for. I can’t even remember the names of all of the teen-age crushes that I seriously thought I could not live without. My desire, and pain at the time were real, but fortunately short-lived. (Interestingly, my first and most steadfast wish was for a horse, and it was the one that was finally granted. This would turn out to be a defining moment in my life, as I have gone on to have a career and a life that revolves around horses).
While I was caught up in the passion and angst of my current want, if my miracle did not appear right on time, I would usually stomp away from my newly professed undying faith, and pout. Once I got distracted by the next cute guy, or the next thing I HAD to have, I would find myself resuming the dialogue, even though I was unsure of whom, or what was on the other end. One thing I knew for sure, this “THING”, was going to need to straighten up and obey, before I was going to be able to be totally on board with it.
My first real epiphany into the possible true nature of the “god thing, came from a passage in the book “Cold Sassy Tree” by Olive Ann Burns. In this scene, a much-loved, crusty grandfather has come to peace with God, and his own death. He is trying to share his insights with his beloved wife ,Love.
Well’m faith ain’t no magic wand or money-back gar’ntee, either one. Hit’s jest a way a-livin’. Hit means you don’t worry th’ew the days. Hit means you go’n be holdin’ on to God in good or bad times, and you accept whatever happens. Hit means you respect life like it is—like God made it—-even when it aint what you’d order from the wholesale house. Faith don’t mean the Lord is go’n make lions lay down with lambs jest cause you ast him to, or make fire not burn. Some folks, when they pray to git well and don’t even git better, they say God let’m down. But I say thet warn’t even what Jesus was a –talkin’ ‘bout. When Jesus said ask and you’ll git it, He was givin’ a gar’ntee a-spiritual healin’, not body healin’. He was sayin’ thet if’n you git beat down———scairt to death you cain’t do what you got to do, or scairt you go’n to die, or scairt folks won’t like you——-why, all you got to do is put yore hand in God’s and He’ll lift you up. I know it for a fact, Love. I can pray, “Lord, hep me not be scairt,’ and I don’t know how, but it’s like a eraser wipes the fears away. And I found out long time ago, when I look on what I got to stand as a dang hardship or a burden, it seems too heavy to carry. But when I look on the same dang thang as a challenge, why, standin’ it or acceptin’ it is like you done entered a contest. Hit even gits excitin, waitin’ to see how everthang’s go’n turn out.” “Jesus meant us to ast God to hep us stand the pain, not beg Him to take the pain away. We can ast for comfort and hope and patience and courage, and to be gracious when thangs ain’t goin’ our way, and we’ll git what we ast for.”
This was the first philosophy that absolutely resonated with me. Instead of demanding that the world be changed to suit me, what I needed to be asking was for God to change me, and to change my perspective so that the world does in fact, suit me. It was this simple idea that has led me to moments of grace. I realized that questioning, and trying to understand, did not necessarily mean doubting. But even if it did, doubt did not mean that a terrible judgment was going to be inflicted. More often than not, it simply meant I was demanding proof, rather than knowing. For me, the most meaningful verse in the Bible has become “Be still, and know that I am God”. Although I am still not completely sure what “God” is, I do know it is something it is infinitely better to be with, rather than against.
I still tend to resort to prayer when I have a list of demands that require attention, and action. But now I try, after making my case, to add a request for the ability to deal with whatever it is that “drove “ me to prayer in the first place. If I can stop my ranting just long enough, there is almost always a softening of my anger, and a chance to catch my breath despite my overwhelming fear. I find that I can eventually stop crashing into the walls of the corner I have muddled into, and know there is a way out, even if it was not originally on my roadmap. I now find comfort in the thought that the power that can remember to make hearts beat, lungs breathe, eyes blink, and all of the everyday miracles that define life, may just have a better plan than anything I could imagine. If I can just be still and listen. If I can just be still, and know that I am God. Amen..