It’s funny how bad news has a way of bringing back old habits. How it can turn back the clock and bring us back to a faith we thought we had outgrown. One we thought we had left behind, as if it were a snakeskin that we could shed. But we never really leave behind the faith we outgrow. It lives inside us; however much we wish it were a skin we could shed.
The skin I thought I had shed was the idea that God is in control. An almighty God, who can do all things and micromanages every little detail in this world according to His plan and purpose. I’m not sure I actually bought into this image of God, which in hindsight was not a very coherent God. Not that coherence is an adequate measure of ones image of God. But still, if God was truly in control of this world than by golly was He failing at being good… But there were certain aspects of that God that I did believe in; like that He had a plan for my life; and that I had to find out what that was. That if I tried hard enough, was good enough, surrendered myself enough to Him, that He would reward me, that He would answer my prayers. That how God acted in this world were somehow dependent or related to what I did, felt and believed. Basically, the extent to which God could do miracles was directly correspondent to how much control I gave Him, which was obviously never enough.
Micromanagement is no longer in my God’s job description. I no longer believe in that God. My God is with me in all things, He draws me near, hears my silent sobs, speaks words I do not want to hear, asks for trust despite my fears, shows me how He loves more richly, more deeply, more beautifully, more openly, more vulnerably, more humbly, more surely than I could imagine, let alone understand. I no longer need to understand, in order to believe. I have my moments of clarity, where I can rest in the words of Anselm of Canterbury; credo ut intelligam; I have faith in order to understand. Some lofty words, where faith comes before understanding; and is almost a prerequisit for understanding. Sometimes I have faith like that. Where I can rest in the Goodness of God, where I know my God will never leave nor forsake me. Where I can rest in God’s embrace despite the millions of questions in my head I will never know the answer to. Sometimes peace, joy, trust, wisdom, goodness, faith and love are enough.
But bad news has a way of bringing back old habits, because bad news often brings us face to face with the great, big, bad, and dark, Unknown. It breaks down the solid ground we thought we stood on, it shatters our hopes and dreams, it slows down time and it speeds time up simultaneously. It shows us exactly how little we can actually control in this world. It brings us to the end of our own capabilities, it brings us to the end of ourselves. If you asked me what I wanted when I was at end of myself, I would not have said I want a God who is with me, who would never leave me or forsake me. I wanted a God who could change things, who could take control, who could spin the wheel and turn it the other way.
And so I yesterday I found myself singing along to old familiar songs, with my hands raised and my face to the sky. I sang, I danced, I prayed, I surrendered and I retreated, I worshipped and I pleaded in old and familiar ways. With old familiar tears of joy and pain, I told God of old familiar fears. And in songs that give me strength and make me cringe in equal measure, I was begging God to be someone He never promised to be and do things He never promised to do. And yet, I believe that God saw me drawing near in every way I know how; while He was drawing me near in the way only He knows.