The world is waking up from a deep slumber that dreamt of the divine somewhere way out there...arranging everything, pulling the strings on everything, having secret purposes behind soul-crushing events, wanting to teach us a bunch of lessons...We are waking up to God-right-beside-us-in-this-moment with his great eyes of affection genuinely responding in delight and surprise to every one of our movements, like a smitten father...that his sole purpose behind all of this stuff (the food, the furniture, the family, the seasons, the adventures, the weddings, the children, the creativity, the reflection, the building, the living and the dignified passing into glory) is our joy. The only lesson to learn is that we would grasp together the height, the breadth, the length and depth of his incredible love. Nothing more.
God is not just a good idea. Not just a high standard you’ll never reach. He is not waiting in Heaven. He is not a mirage and He is not a pot of gold under the rainbow. He isn’t disappointed, disapproving or disinterested. God isn’t wanting to control you. God isn’t a hoop to jump through. He isn’t a guru or stoic zen-master. God isn’t aloof. He isn’t complicated. He isn’t just for the really smart, really good or really deep. In fact, many of those often miss him…because He “hides” in plain sight: in the obvious, in the courageous step we need to take, in the person right in front of us, in the things that all children know naturally. God is a tangible reality. God is abundant and accessible. His energy—His River—is flowing around us all the time and we can let go and jump in his water at any time. Surrender and Trust are the way. Lean back and relax. Lean in and step forward. We have to sway to remain in God. He has sway with us. And we have sway with Him. God is the most exciting, inviting, beautiful "thing" that life has to offer. And it is continually offered to us every day. He offers himself to us. To spiritually see Him. To physically feel Him. To emotionally want Him. Experiencing God. There is nothing better.
There are some who believe that as part of the essential gospel, we need to believe in a particular conception of God. I believe that the gospel is Jesus. Full stop. Pardon the gross metaphor, but imagine a girl who was sexually abused by her distant and angry father. Then imagine that girl growing up to marry an insecure, verbally- and physically-abusive husband. Can you imagine the negative associations she would have with the word "father" and "husband" and "men" in general? The word "God" can be like that. We bring into that word our own culture, our history, our wounds and hopes and expectations. These, along with the atmosphere of faithlessness, and the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil affect our beliefs and conceptions about what power, sovereignty, and God-ness look like. "God" can become the nth degree of extrapolating our own lust for power. Or He can become the projection of our own likeness—a picture of our best, most disciplined, perfected self.
We may also be tempted to project a soft, cuddly, nice-guy face onto Jesus, especially if we forget the things he said and did. But if we diligently study Jesus, become his disciple, we find a different sort of God than we expected. We expected a lion, but he showed us a lamb. We expected military power, but he showed us dying-for-the-enemy love. We expected control, but he showed us that we can move him. All of our notions of true power and justice and god-like-ness got turned upside down by the weakness and foolishness of God as a lamb dying for us.
If you want to see Jesus better, I’d recommend “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge. Looking at different portraits of Jesus in the bible, Eldredge pulls you into the color, the nuance and the humor of the stories. Each chapter highlights a different attribute of Jesus. It will make you fall in love with Jesus all over again.
The woman who suffered abuse needs a long-term, committed example of an altogether different kind of father (or husband) that can slowly melt away the icy pain, that can dislodge and eventually completely displace (redefine) her image of what "father" and "husband" mean. Likewise, all of our cultures, whether they be Greek, pagan, animist, Buddhist, Muslim, secular or Christian, need the word "God" redefined. That redefinition is often a very slow process. But I'll offer (and close) with this: that redefinition is necessary. And it happens in direct proportion to the degree to which we see Jesus and learn from him. Study Jesus. Become his disciple. And our world will be transformed.