The snow has melted, and the ground has returned to the crunchy, frozen, dead, brown leaves that covered the earth before. Looking out my window the world appears gray, hard, uninviting. I have no desire to leave the comfort of my cozy studio for the cold that has descended upon us.
This morning I sit and ponder my true image of God. Not the things I could tell you I believe about them theologically. The things that form my decisions day to day. The filter my process goes through of how I think God treats us, reacts to us, should I say rewards or punishes us? That grates on my nerves to write, but is it because I know it is theologically unsound, and still find myself thinking through that filter? Perhaps. Yes.
I’ve felt drawn to religion because I want to know what is right and wrong. I want things to fall into black and white categories. I want to sort decisions, life events, people, and feelings into boxes. I want to label them for what they are and have clear order in my mind. I think as a child, religion felt like the way to know how to do that.
“Yes, you can.”
“No, you may not.”
“Clearly a sin.”
“A fine thing to enjoy.”
Black and white. Right and wrong. Yes and no. Clear cut and no room for question.
When I found myself a young “Christian” girl, pregnant, not married, I thought the easy remedy was to get married, make it right, never speak of it. That would turn God’s favor back on me. I messed up, and I tried to make it right, that had to count for something. Didn’t it? Only life got hard, harder than I had ever known it. Some of that is growing up, some of it was getting into a terrible situation. I thought it was punishment. I had messed up; I needed to learn a lesson; I better take it and learn.
I never listened to the whispers of God then. I don’t believe I heard them. I pictured God standing at a table, giving me options to choose from, only they weren’t freely given options. If I chose wrong, you didn’t get a prize, you got a whole lot of nothing, or worse, the same you’d received for a long time. If I chose wrong, I kept living through my punishment. I felt like I kept choosing wrong.
When Gavyn lay in that hospital bed, tiny, innocent, fighting for his life, tubes coming from his mouth, his head, his nose. IV’s filling him with fluid and meds. Drains taking away fluid from his brain. Stickers monitoring his heart, his oxygen, his every movement, I understood something I had never understood before. Something I have never quite been able to put into the right words. Somehow, in some way, I saw Jesus in him.
I’ve always felt that is an odd thing to say. It was an odd thing to experience. It was other worldly. It was the first time I ever met God. I don’t believe I was a Christian until that moment. It changed something in me I don’t think I can explain. I’m not sure I want to. It felt sacred, private, holy. Terrifying.
I still fight the picture of God giving me 3 choices and only 1 is the ‘right’ choice. I second guess myself. I wait for the whispers and try my hardest to follow them.
I know I am not alone anymore. Pastor Curtis helped me understand how Jesus draws near to us, empathizes with us, loves us, is as near to us as we will let him. I’ve prayed for him to draw near to me and felt his presence each time I did.
I know Jesus is near. I know the Spirit whispers to me. I still fear God punishes me when I chose wrong. I still worry they sit above me and shake their head at my wrong choosing and wonder when I will ever get it right. I fear it the most.