60. this "relationship with God" business (bring your lightning rod)
1. So I’m hanging out with a couple of my Christian friends and we’re talking about problems in our lives and it seems to me that we’re talking about the same problems every week. Which brings to the fore something that was hanging out at the back of my mind which is…
2. These past couple weeks (well, past couple months but more so in the past couple weeks), I’ve been dealing with my feelings for this girl I know. When I’m in rational zen mind, I understand that she’s not right for me and I’m not right for her so let’s call the whole thing off, but most of the time it’s tweaking me this way (maybe things can work out anyway, give it a try) and that (stay the hell away, this could get ugly and throw you right back into the pit that you’ve just been making your way out of). The only thing I can do when I get twisted like this is pray…and so I pray…and nothing happens. I ask questions (is it this way or that?) and nothing happens. I ask for these feelings to be taken away, and nothing happens (although I do feel the edges soften sometimes). I pray for Jesus to fill the needy, resonating emptiness inside of me the way so many sermons have promised, and nothing happens (and the empty gains an inch).
And so tonight I’m listening to my friends and I’m thinking about my prayers and then it hits me. (lightning rods up) Where is God in all of this? Where is this God I always hear about in church – the one who hears prayers, who answers them? And in my loneliness, where is the God who brings comfort and fulfillment and purpose?
There are a thousand ways to explain them away, these questions, but the fact remains, evident as the air I breathe – God is not (as far as I can see, and right now – right now – that’s all that matters to me) doing anything about anything.
Of course if I think it through, I can understand that God works on a different timetable than ours and so behind the scenes in dimensions inaccessible, angels are hard at work…but it’s the quiet that ires me most. Some Christians talk about a relationship with Jesus as if he lives in the apartment across the hall. And he’s always there when they knock on the door to borrow a bit of salt. My Jesus lives on another planet and my cell phone doesn’t reach that far.
I suppose it’s possible that God chooses to reveal himself in different degrees to different people, and that’s his right. But this talk of relationship is ubiquitous. It’s so ingrained into the Christian lexicon that one like me has to wonder, “what’s wrong with me?” Has the church taken what was once a useful metaphor and turned it into a stumbling block?
Late at night, I like to sit and stare out into the night sky. And I pray. And I wait. And I listen. And I wait. And wait. And then I get up and go to bed.
What do I pray? Here’s a quick list (minus the specifics…this is a blog, not an open book…so to speak):
1. Lord, my friends and I need help with these problems and they don’t go away. We try but we fail. We need your strength and intervention. Is there anything you can do to save us from ourselves?
2. Lord, I’m lonely. Are you there?
3. Lord, you know that I’m a generous person, that I help whenever I see a need that I can fill, but who’s going to fill the need that’s left in me? I know you’ve graced me with great friends but this need is beyond them. This need is beyond me. It’s a need that I can’t even put into words but you know what it is (Romans 8:26-27). Can you do something about this?
4. Are you there? Can you throw me a bone or something?
And the wind blows, a car drives by. I watch the clouds (lit by light pollution) go by. And I try to listen beyond the ambiance, down through the noise floor. But it’s silent. Jet black, squid ink, obsidian. Silence.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mistake the silence for absence. I know God is there, that’s not a question for me anymore. And so in the end, maybe my argument is not with God but with the church and their (false?) promise of relationship. And I wonder how many more of me are out there, squirming in their church pew seats when mention is made of this relationship business – if they’re still in these seats at all.
I believe. Even though, even if, despite. Still, some evidence would be nice.