For both Pam and me the last few years have had, as you might imagine, a profound impact on our relationship with and understanding of God. And, while I have on these pages written many times about the journey from my point of view, today I hope you are blessed by hearing from my wife's perspective. We love you all.
By: Pamela Crews
Below is a link to an article that a good friend, Kathryn Jankiewicz, sent to me this morning. I really think it is worth a read. I agree wholeheartedly with what she says (UNTIL she gets to the part where she says she had to invent new names for Him...but I'll talk about that later).
I think there are way too many people in the world who have turned their backs on God; people who have been unable to forgive him for bad things that have happened to themselves personally, or in the world generally, and people who have been disappointed when he failed to deliver on what they believed he promised to do for them. How many times have any of us heard, "I don't believe in God. How could a loving God allow ________"?
Maybe in the midst of pain, frustration and confusion...the things can that often leave us most vulnerable....we forget to consider that it is not actually God who is the problem. We fail to consider the fact that God, as we have each chosen to personify Him (our own perfect, individually tailored, made-to-order God who fits perfectly within the confines we each individually need Him to be, based on our own interpretations of the specific parts of the bible we choose to embrace, specific sermons that "resonate" with us, hurts we have endured, fears we harbor, and our hopes and desires for the future) is NOT BOUND to act within the confines of our understanding of who He is.
Duh. We all say that. But are we REALLY prepared and WILLING to meet God on His terms?
Before Jonathan was murdered, I felt like I had a very close relationship with God. Very close. I thought I understood his "nature,"...that I could predict His actions, within reason, based on my level of faith and my willingness/ability to follow His commands...plus a couple of other factors which might be figured in like some mathematical equation far beyond my ability to compute. Sure, I knew that bad things happened to everybody in life...but I believed that if I simply prayed for certain things, with absolute faith, God would make them happen. Isn't that what the bible says? Turns out, "Not exactly." WHAT?!
Well, what about this thing called "FAVOR" that we are taught is one of the biggest PERKS of "joining" the Christianity club? Doesn't God save the highest paying, most prestigious jobs for the members of His club? Not exactly. WHAT!?
But at least it comes with the best health plan. I mean, if we or somebody we love get sicks, it's pretty much not a big deal, right? Because we can just pray for healing and "if we have enough faith," POOF, a healing miracle will be delivered, right? Not Exactly. WHAT!?
Parking places. At least we will get inexplicably great parking places and other meaningless VIP crap, right? Nope. WHAT?!
So, what's the point, really? What kind of a stupid club is this? A lot of very restrictive rules (I mean, there's not even a limited exclusion for infidelity if you get that once-in-a-lifetime invite from your most coveted movie star!) and not many take-it-to-the-bank benefits. What's the attraction? Why should I "choose" this God out of all of the other very attractive god options out there?
Oh, I get it. It's the emotional benefit. Like, when something really bad happens, at least God will protect me from being too sad about it, right? Not exactly. WHAT?!
So what's the point? What is the return I can expect for the considerable investment I am asked to make?
Well, many will tell you that the investment is really not all that much...despite what you may have imagined...and the main perk comes down the line...kind of like a spiritual 401K. Turns out you just have to repeat a certain prayer. You don't even have to memorize it, apparently...just repeat it after somebody else. (You can, at your own discretion, choose to put your hand on your heart or raise your arms to the sky…or not. It’s all good.) Oh, and depending on where you go to church, there will be water...either dabbed on your forehead in the shape of a cross or in the form of a complete dousing...and POOF you get excluded from going to hell when you die! Now that's something good for sure! At least the bible promises us that. Not exactly. WHAT?!
No wonder so many people are mad at God! They are promised all of these wonderful perks and He doesn't deliver! Babies are dying by the thousands! Who is more innocent and deserving of mercy than babies? There is no earthly way to excuse a God who would allow this! So we get mad. Because all too often our willingness to walk with God stops at our ability to see past our earthly desires and our limited understanding of who God REALLY is. Despite wanting to have complete faith in God, we fail too often to have faith in the reality that His ways are better than our ways. His understanding is so far beyond our ability to comprehend...and yet we try to limit him to understanding only what we understand.
God is not a democracy. He simply IS. He doesn't change with "the times." Would you REALLY WANT a God who did? His existence in our lives does not depend on our belief in Him. We are so arrogant as a society to think that we can ERASE Him because He does not conform His commands to the latest popular vote! Good luck with that. I am afraid to see how He is going to deal with this...and yet not afraid at all...because the worst that can happen is my body will die. And, as it turns out, God is a lot less interested in my mortal body than He is in my soul. And now, so am I.
So who IS God? That is obviously way too big a question for me to answer here. And I don't know…not exactly anyway. Nobody can know all of God….and I have not yet run across anybody who can give an adequate description of all that He is. But I do know that He is not most of the things I learned from a lifetime in a variety of different churches. He is so much BETTER!
As much as I thought I knew Him before, I have learned over the last three years, since Jonathan's death, that He is not very much at all like the God I knew before. I did have a relationship with him before...but not like I do now. I understand Him more than ever now...even though my understanding now includes knowing that I will never on this earth fully understand Him, and realizing for the first time ever that I have no right or ability to predict or expect Him to do any certain thing in response to my level of faith, time spent in prayer, or acts of service. He does as He does. He blesses who He blesses at His own choosing, based on His desires, not mine. He sends rain on the just and the unjust, at His choosing, not mine. And at His time, not mine. He heals who He heals and He lets die who He lets die.
That’s not to say that I don’t still pray for things, but I pray with a different heart now. I used to use prayer as some sort of “amulet,” but now I know that although God will certainly listen, He will probably do what He knows is best instead of what I want. And I’m grateful for that…most times. (I’m still working out that “be perfect” thing.) Or He may not like what is happening either, but choose not to interfere in the evil some other person is exercising in his or her free will. I pray for healing when my friends and family are sick…but I know that no matter what my level of faith is, God may have a different plan, and I accept that. I prayed every day for my children’s health, safety and protection…and my son was still murdered…and literally just minutes after the last time I prayed those things for him. Possibly even as I was in the midst of praying.
Have I ever blamed God for not answering what I consider a VERY faithful and diligent prayer? No. And I credit that entirely to Him. Why? Because “No weapon formed against me will prosper.” I know now that that passage has nothing to do with what weak, human me might have once secretly desired…what the world thinks of as “instant karma”… smiting people who gossip about me or giving the person who cuts me off in traffic a flat tire. I know now that it means that I belong to Him and He is not going to let the part of Him who lives in me be killed off by the liar who hovers over this world and wants to turn my heart hard. He protected me even from questioning Him! In my weakest moments, I have protection from weapons aimed at my soul. That is a pretty awesome if you ask me. And there is so much more! But I can’t begin to tell you. Nobody can. Not in a way that will make it real. It’s only real when it’s living inside your heart.
So how CAN you make THAT happen? Ask Him. That’s the kind of prayer I have a feeling He likes to answer. The answer may come in ways you never imagined. And you probably won’t be fond of the entire “journey” (“The Bachelor” as given me a new found distaste for that word…and I don’t even watch it…but it’s too appropriate to leave out here)…but once God has taken root in your heart…really taken root….you will always be thankful!
So….here’s that article (which you may be too tired to read by now. Sorry). That last part…the part that I disagree with…is her decision to reinvent God on her terms, and discard His name. I understand where she’s coming from on a personal level, but I think that by using euphemisms to describe God, she may inadvertently rob somebody of the opportunity to know the one true God. There are so many different (apparently over 3300, according to her) options to choose from for one who is shopping for a god in this world.
I feel like referring to Him in terms of what she personally gets from Him instead of His name may not only give the impression (once again) that we want to believe to receive something, but that one might be safe in “shopping” for the god that best suits whatever it is they are personally seeking. Use His name. How else is anybody going to know who it really is who created the universe?
By the way, many names for God can be found in the Bible, when in doubt "Jesus" will always do.
That is all. : )