I shared an article on Facebook the other day that resonated deeply with the hurt I’ve felt, not from God, but the church. The article was beautifully written, and went into detail of the things “Christians” say that make God into something evil, distant, and unrelatable. Each phrase was something I had heard often growing up in the fundamental church. Things like, “We are to be joyful, because God makes everything work for his glory.” When someone you loved deeply has passed away, and you simply want to feel the pain of missing them. Or my personal favorite, “If you just had enough faith this would not have happened.” When it feels like your entire world is crashing down around you. These statements, though well intentioned, are more harmful than they are helpful. The article I shared went into great detail on how statements like this made the author fearful of a hateful God who would take good things away from his children for his own sake. (You can read the article By Christa Black Gifford here).
Oh how my soul knows that feeling. God’s people are so good at messing things up, they have been since the beginning of time. Human instinct is to attribute all of people’s wrongs to God. Claim that their false statements are His truths so therefore He must be awful. After suffering years of hurt in fundamental churches I was ready to walk away, give up on this God who clearly did not care about me, much like Christa claimed in the article above. However, God was faithful and used my lovely husband to show me that God is not the mistakes and false teachings of the people who claim to follow him. Since returning to the church I have spent years rewriting the theology that had been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember. Refusing to let someone else tell me who God is, and find God for myself. It has been a beautiful, healing journey, one I encourage everyone to go on.
Upon sharing these thoughts on Facebook, a ‘friend’ (who I haven’t spoken to in YEARS, isn’t it funny how they always want to chime in and tell you how wrong you are, but never participate in anything else?) was quick to tell me how dangerous it is to claim that I was finding God for myself, because no matter what I feel or think God is still God. And years ago I would have been on the same page as this ‘friend’, however today I am not. God is God and in so being He is much bigger than any definition the church can place on Him. By saying God is God we place Him into a prefabricated box that is shaped by our culture and religious background. But God doesn’t fit in a box. And he especially does not have to adhere to our standards and qualifications for what makes Him God.
I would say it is more dangerous to NOT find God for you. If we all spent our lives being spoon fed from a pulpit and shaping our definition of God around someone else’s opinions and ideas, we would never know God. We would only know someone else’s opinion of God. Think about it. Pretend you live in a world where everyone talks about you constantly, your personality, what you like and don’t like, where you live, what kind of clothes you wear, and your political stance. Some of the things they say are true, and some of them are very wrong. All of these people then go onto shape an opinion of you. Most people like you, they support your ideas, but others HATE you and all that you stand for. You would be deeply offended, these people have never met you, they never let you defend yourself or speak the truth. They just shaped an opinion of who you are based off of what they had heard. What a miserable life that would be! This is what we do to God. He is not a distant God, living in the clouds waiting for an appropriate time to intervene on the mess you’ve made. He wants to know you, and you to know him. Really know him, not just know what other people say about him.
My ‘friend’ continued onto say that God does not change from person to person, he is Sovereign. Nothing about this makes sense to me. First of all, what exactly does Sovereign me? Do the people who toss this phrase around in arguments even know?Dictionary.com defines Sovereign as “a person who has supreme power and authority.” Okay, so yes I will agree the bible does say God is King of king’s. But what does that have to do with Him not being willing to relate to people where they are? Even kings are willing to relate to their people to have better understanding. We see this in Esther with King Xerxes when he invites Esther, a foreigner in his land, (outside of standard customs) and listens to her request. Or in Exodus when Pharaoh allows his daughter to keep Moses knowing he was an Israelite, a foreigner, and raises him as a son giving him immense power in the kingdom. If human kings can bend down and relate to the people living in their kingdom, why can’t God?
I would venture to say that BECAUSE God is sovereign he meets people where they are. We all have different cultural contexts, religious backgrounds, and socioeconomic understandings. We expect other people to take these things into consideration when we meet them, but we do not expect this from God? I am a white, middle class female in the United States. I do not understand, nor will I pretend to, what it looks like or how it feels to have grown up as an orphan in India, or a low income, black male in the UK. I love these people, and I try my best to relate to them, but I simply did not grow up in their environment I can never fully understand their cultural context and how it shapes their world view. So if God were to come to me in the same way He revealed himself to the orphan in India, I would probably not be who I am today, and Becoming Eve would not exist. If God were to reveal himself to the black, low income male in the UK the same way he revealed himself to the orphan in India, that man probably would not be a ‘Christian’ either. It is because God is sovereign that He does not do this. He has all power and knowledge, thus he knows exactly what each individual’s cultural context is, what they need, and how to meet them where they are. How on Earth would there be such a uniqueness across the people who claim to be followers of God if He didn’t relate to each of them differently?
The journey of finding God for me has been so healing. And the only thing dangerous about it, is that I’m learning TRUTH and we have an enemy who hates truth being brought into light. How easy would the enemy’s job be if we all allowed our definition of God to be shaped around opinions we were spoon fed from a pulpit, and never met God for ourselves. Join in the movement, start your own journey of Finding God for yourself. It’s dangerous, but not in the way my ‘friend’ described, and most importantly it is healing and beautiful.