FROM THE BOUNDARY: Watch it Mate!
The other day I quarreled with God. The quarrel went something like this. “Look, in a rotten situation you gave me a gift of the truth and I thanked you for it. But what you didn’t do was give me a way of dealing with the pain of the truth, and so I’m even more miserable now. You got me into this mess, so do something. Get me out of it.” My language was pretty strong. It was all a bit like Job’s remonstrations with God. “Why is light given to the miserable…?” (Job 3:20). In other words, what’s the point of giving enlightenment to someone who can do nothing with it, when it only causes greater frustration, pain, confusion?
Job didn’t curse God, or refuse to acknowledge his dependence on Him, and neither did I. Yet in our different ways we asserted a kind of independence. We did what schoolboys do. We answered back. We didn’t grovel, or beg, or whine. No. We got angry – well I did.
Now anger is an ordinary human emotion. It’s a part of me, as of you. It was also a part of Jesus. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The misuse of power and injustice definitely makes me angry. It usually expresses itself in words, though I’m quite capable of turning over the tables of the money changers. But that’s really only a way of saying I’m very human, a creature of the living God. Yes, but is anger at God somehow different?
Well, perhaps not. It’s a way of expressing independence. It’s surely God’s will that we should become, or be, our true selves, fully ourselves. And that means we can’t live our lives as automatons of God. With God, surely, we believe we have a living relationship. He’s a personal God. If that idea is meaningful, so that, as with Moses, He deals with you and me as a man deals with a friend, then our relationship must be allowed to grow, to mature. We’re not mere cyphers are we, ‘yes people’, sycophants, cowards? The old Jewish rabbis understood this. Think of Jacob wrestling with the angel of God at Peniel. It’s said he was wrestling for a favourable covenant, better terms. And because he was prepared to take that awful risk, he got them – and God put His mark upon him.
We speak of God just as Jesus did – as Father. In using that term we’re obviously saying something about our relationship with Him. The word ‘Father’ clearly has sense. For isn’t God our origin, the ground of our being, the fountain from which we flow AS IF He is our earthly father? Well, that means that the conflicts and crises which are a necessary part of the maturing relationship with our earthly father will find its counterpart in our relationship with our ‘heavenly’ Father. As well as love and obedience, there’ll be resentment, rebellion and self-assertion – a bid for independence. How else can we grow into a mature relationship with Him? Certainly it will take time and much self-discovery. You can’t buy it off a shelf. If the relationship is to mature we really can’t suppress our feelings of conflict to be God’s good little boys and girls, just half people not whole people.
Yes, but you might say that adolescent conflict with fathers is something we grow out of. But do we? Think of expressions like ‘grow up’, ‘you’re acting like a child’, ‘mid-life crisis’, ‘there’s no fool like an old fool’. And don’t many men look for the qualities of their mothers in women they love, and many women for their father’s qualities? Don’t women often cherish the boy in the man, and men the little girl in the woman?
What of spiritual adolescence? We’d have to be very conceited to think we’ve outgrown it, to think – if we think at all - we’re so mature we can accept total dependence. To say we’re full grown spiritually is really to claim the fullness of Christ – a self-evidently bogus claim. Mind, spiritual adolescence, answering back, the courage of disobedience, may just elicit dialogue with God as it did with Job. Maybe God will say to us, as with Job, ”Let him who would correct God answer…” (40:2). From that dialogue, in its maturity, may come the deepest respect, that oneness we all seek, so that ultimately we can freely say ‘yes’ to Him.
So maybe, just maybe, it’s absurd, even blasphemous, to imagine we can love God without at times expressing frustration, even anger. There may be more love in a plain, old fashioned, ‘Christ Almighty’ than a spiritually castrated ‘Alleluia’. God knows us better than we know ourselves. We don’t have to pretend we’re better or worse than we really are. We don’t have to stand on too much ceremony with Him either. Yes, why not ‘Hello, it’s me, your old, ever loving friend and your old enemy, as usual perplexed and doubting.’ I think God would welcome this. Why? Because ultimately it’s an expression of love and dependence. He knows then that we’re not fawning spongers full of manipulative tricks. It’s called being ‘honest to God’. That can’t be bad, can it?
Go safely then – until the next time.
My Mate from the boundary: ‘OK Sunshine, do it your way. I’ll still change your nappy.’