I have a hard time trusting God.
There’s this image of a screw which has come into contact with a heart, so that each time the heart beats, the screw slices the flesh. That’s what I mean when I say something is “shredding my heart”–that image right there.
I was in a relationship once– a relationship I never should have been in and one which taught me a lesson I thought I was beyond needing to learn. To the one friend who stood up to me, I said I don’t need you to be worried for me; I can take care of myself.
I couldn’t and I didn’t…. and I should have listened. But I was confident I could handle the guy.
When the same person later (after we were long over) grew too close to a friend of mine, I felt panic for this friend. I knew who this guy was and was worried about my friend being with him– would have given anything to protect her from him.
I was pissed and panicky with God, telling Him she was too young and too good to deal with this guy, and begging for Him to protect her.
I’m at a point in my life where many of my closest friends are divorced (or heading that way), and when I get the late night texts reminiscing the heartache or the fear for the kids or beating themselves up for having failed to be perfect in the relationship or despairing of life from the loneliness that drives small daggers into their pieces of hope or worn out from the barrage of insults still being thrown at them…. it sucks. I want to put up a shield and let them hide behind it for a while. I want to find the ex who has hurt them so and throw a punch or a barrage of words to belittle and tear down and let them feel an ounce of what my friend is feeling… and not leave until the he or she who has wrought so much pain is sufficiently in a heap of tears on the ground. I have to fight the desire to take this into my own hands… fight constantly the frustration that God isn’t fixing this, isn’t protecting my friends the way that I would, shouldn’t be trusted with the ones I love.
The last two years of my life have been easy. Not without problems. Not without their share of things that momentarily seemed overwhelming. But relatively easy compared to the years before them.
I was texting a friend a year ago, a friend who’d been with me through the rougher years, and telling him that things were good, and that I was worried. I had it in my head that God, who had curiously given me a really easy year, was waiting to build me up before slamming a hurricane into my life… waiting until I had my guard down before he would steal my hope from underneath me– probably just after I’d learned to stand steadily on it. He was, in my mind, much like the villain in the story with the gingerbread house, fattening me up on good and easy times so that he could stick a plumper, trusting me into the oven to kill.
I resonate with the author in that video clip… with the paranoia he feels, waiting for God’s anger to come rolling “down like the mighty waters.”
In August, I met a new friend who sent me a book. Was reading it recently, and the author says this: We are terrified of Him, and rightly so, because He is just waiting for us to make a mistake or fall into sin so He can blast us into hell. Most of what we do in our religion is based on fear… Can you imagine me telling my wife that I love her and I will never leave her or forsake her, but if she ever cheats on me, I will proceed to torture her for all eternity? Though she may never cheat on me, she will certainly never get close to me… This is exactly what many Christians believe about their Father.
I know that this picture of God is not what I believe… but practically, it gets too close sometimes. There’s this verse in the Bible that gets me almost constantly: Perfect love drives out fear.
It’s how I know I don’t love God the way that I want to… because I still walk around afraid of him. Afraid of who in my life He’s going to hurt to get my attention. Afraid of how he’s going to make me pay to make up for having a good couple of years. Afraid that the car accident or the hospital bill or the fire or the death of a loved one will be for something I’ve done wrong, for something good I’ve forgotten to do. For some way in which I haven’t been perfect.
I hate that I still feel this way. That I’ve been through my Christian schooling, through my Bible College education (oh Bible College, how I almost completely lost my faith when I was with you), through my service now with my church, and into the new places my heart tells me He is leading me. That I’ve been through those things, and I still can’t shake this feeling of God. That beneath You give and take away… still blessed be Your name is Will those who mourn be left uncomforted while you’re up there just playing hard to get?
I’ve been more in touch with my own heart lately. I’ve stopped to listen to it. It’s weary. Weary of this fear. Weary of behaving with God the way that I do late at night, walking in a bad neighborhood: Watch your back. Don’t step too close to an alley or deep doorway or car door. Keep a hand in your pocket, your cell phone in your palm, covered by your sleeve, so that if you only get one hit, you have the extra firmness to break a nose. Keep your legs unencumbered so you can kick. Don’t be afraid to bite– hard enough to leave a mark, but try not to break the skin, as you don’t know what the assailant might have. keep your eyes open. Be aware of the guy who teeters too close, of the group underneath the trees, of the lookout on the corner; look behind yourself when you cross a street; use windows you pass by as a way to see who’s behind you; trust your gut and always be aware of at least two exits and be ready to run.
Exhaustion of this type, I have lived with. I’m still trying to separate it in my heart, to discover the truths and discard the lies and hold on to light.
But it’s seeped in… into the bloodstream of my faith. And it’s starting to infiltrate the organs i need to live.
I have something exciting and good and new which God has given to me. And i ponder it with the trace of a smile on my face, holding the secret between me and God and a few good friends, enjoying the moments of silence and quiet joy.
But I’ve somewhere left a door unprotected, because this fear seeped in there, too. And tainted is the dream, with this fear that God is really saying no– that’s too good. i want you to suffer here for a bit first. or instead.
And either this thought hasn’t been here before today, or it just hasn’t been loud enough. But it started to squeeze my spirit. And I sat here for too long, reading the texts from the friends and I started to hear a whisper in my ear that maybe these friends were going through such hard times because God needed to get my attention, and that he wouldn’t stop hurting people until I gave up the joy I’d been feeling.
I don’t know why I’m telling you this, except that I needed to get it out and call the lie to the front of the room and make it stand there, rather than hunched over me, shooting despair and panic and distrust into my bloodstream toward my heart.
I know that this God of terror and of fear and of panic is not my God, but I’ve picked up this fake somewhere. And I just need help remembering sometimes the difference between the two.
The gospel is hope and is redemption and restoration– rebuilding the broken and the weak and the unfaithful; it’s a God who adores the whores and the drunks and the failures, and who doesn’t give up on us.
It is simple but not easy, as He is good but not safe. And I am broken but not beyond healing, as we may feel crazy, but are not alone.