Let’s imagine that I decide that I cannot tolerate Alex sticking his pointy elbow in my eyeball while we share a full size bed. Don’t believe me that it’s true? Here’s a haiku from a very old post to prove it:
ABOUT SHARING A FULL SIZE BED
North Korea invades
Peace treaty not an option
Sharp elbow attacks.
It’s no secret in our marriage that I don’t want anything touching me whilst I sleep- not even a hair or the edge of a pillowcase. If you try to touch me, then I will jujitzu you and you will die.
So, let’s just say that instead of trying to work through this elbow-in-my-face issue by, say, buying a bigger bed or putting him in a straightjacket before bed OR just getting over it, I decide that I’m going to alter reality with my beliefs.
It’s as easy as saying, “Okay, I don’t believe in Alex poking me in the face anymore. It isn’t going to happen because I don’t believe in it.” I could do this with lots of things- “Alex never smacks his food” or “my dog never throws up on the floor when guests are over” or “everyone in Dallas is a considerate driver”. It would be very convenient…if it were true.
Those statements are, in a word, deluded. You can’t just go around making these pronouncements and expecting reality to change because you believe it is so. I can’t go around believing that Alex wears manpris (man-capris) because he doesn’t wear manpris, even when I beg. Even if I’m able to convince myself that Alex wore manpris today, that doesn’t change the reality of the situation. Alex refuses to wear manpris.
It’s silly to think that I could change any reality about Alex or anything by just changing what I believe.
So…why do we do that with God?
One of God’s names is “I AM”. That name implies power and his unchanging nature. He says, “This is who I am- unchanging and forever. Deal with it”. That’s what that name means. It would be a killer wrestling name.
As indicated by his gangsta name “I AM”, God doesn’t bend much.
There was a big hullaballoo a few months back about Love Wins, a book that Rob Bell, uber-trendy, weepy-voiced Christian author/video maker, wrote about how (supposedly) no one will end up going to hell. Well, I still haven’t read the book, so I can’t speak to what his argument was, but I did read an interesting article that has lodged itself in my brain and won’t come out. The article was in response to Bell’s video announcing the book and the author’s point was, “How prideful is it to say ‘I won’t serve a God who….’?” Meaning, humans are little peons and who are we to try to dictate who God is and how He should run things.
This sentiment isn’t only in reference to Bell. Everyone does this. We treat God like a Golden Corral buffet -“Yep, we’ll take some more of that love and grace. WAIT! Hold the jealous God part and I only want a squirt of that fear of God. No, do not give me that part where He allows Job to suffer. Sure, I’ll take some forgiveness. Whoa, if you give me any of that crap about giving my possessions to the poor, I’ll punch you. I can stomach ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ but please nothing about submitting myself to God or other people.”
Alex would not feel loved if I said, “Well, I love you, except when you’re eating cause you slurp your food. I really hate you when you do that” or “I’ll love all of you, except the part when you get angry about being late. That’s really annoying and I don’t understand it.” That just wouldn’t work. When we got married, I chose to love Alex for Alex, not some version of him that I created in my mind.
The greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. My question is: How can you love someone with your whole being if you only accept the “good” parts of who they are (according to you!)? You’re creating some new imaginary person/situation in your head that isn’t reality.
I guess my point is this: if we say we love God but we’re choosing to ignore parts of God that we don’t like or understand- hell, the injunction against drunkenness, why a powerful God doesn’t stop suffering, the fact that a person who chooses to believe on their deathbed has the same standing as a person who has been righteous their entire lives, etc- then do we really love God, the God that created the universe and loves us infinitely? Or are we creating our own false god- an idol that bends and moves with our ever-changing opinions and ideas because we want him to?
The question above gives me two contradictory pictures of God: One of an elderly, loving Arnold Schwarzenegger who loves his children but is totally and completely himself and another of Veruca Salt’s father in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- a sniveling man who bends to his daughter’s will the second she throws a tantrum.
When Jesus started telling His disciples about His final days, Peter pulled him aside and began to rebuke Jesus (a gutsy move, Peter), saying “This isn’t going to happen to you, JC! Never!” Jesus, channeling the I AM energy, says “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:21-28). Pretty strong words to someone who was trying to alter reality with their “beliefs”.
We live in this post-modern world, where everyone just sticks it out there. You can believe anything you want. If you don’t want to believe in hell, don’t. If you don’t want to follow God’s moral laws, then, by all means, let loose.
The problem is that God doesn’t change because we decide to believe or not believe these things. Are we really being transformed by Jesus or are we trying to conform God toourwill?
When we learn to accept God as He is, even if we don’t understand Him or like Him sometimes, then we can begin to truly truly love the God, not this pseudo-God who caters to our every spiritual and intellectual misunderstanding.
I get it. I understand what you’re feeling. It is easy to accept the notions of God’s love or His mercy. It is much harder to stomach the concept of sending people to hell or that God hardened Pharoh’s heart (He can do that?!?). The important thing to realize is that we, all of us, are pea-brains and we can’t understand everything that God does any more than my dog can understand why I bother standing at the sink 9 hours a day doing the dishes or why Alex and I sit and stare at a box of light instead of throwing the ball for her.
Where do we go from here? Here’s what I’m not saying: You must immediately accept every part of God and His word without question or doubt. Heck, I love questioning God. I think He wants us to have these discussions with Him. It’s okay to say, “Wow, God, hell? Really? I don’t get that.” He wants you to be honest with Him, to wrestle with these issues. We need to be okay with saying, “I don’t really know or understand the answer to that” and we also need to be humble enough to accept what God says if He decides to give us a definitive answer- even an answer we don’t like. All of these issues should be covered with alot of study and prayer.
So, questioning and wrestling with these issues is okay, normal. The problem starts when we say,”I don’t care enough to really look into what You think about this. I know MY opinions on the subject” or “Okay, I know that You feel this way, God, but I’m choosing to ignore it”. Saying those things are completely within our free-will rights but we need to understand the gravity of those statements. At that point, we’re deciding not to follow God, the True God, but instead, to follow some version 2.0 of Him that we’ve created to fit our desires.
I, for one, am thankful that my God is I AM, instead of “oh, alright”.