Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Who do I think you are?

Who are you, God?

Who do I think you are? 

I'm reading Margaret Silf's book on prayer again (The Gift of Prayer: Embracing the spiritual in the everyday) and all of a sudden I'm full of questions. 

Who do I think that I pray to? What is it that I think you're going to do? What do I expect of you? 

Who are you? 

Are we looking for a satisfier of our shopping list requests?
Are we looking for a fireman to rescue us from 
an emergency?
Are we looking for a parent figure to tell us what
to do next?

Yes, yes and yes. Sometimes someone who'll solve some problems for me in short order. Make people that I care about better. Make it so that we get home before my daughter is sick in the car. Help me get to sleep. Help me say the right thing in that conversation. 

Sometimes I want to shout for you and for you to come running, please. Like the Fireman. Or an ambulance blue-lighting me to hospital.  Or like Daddy when a small child wails with a grazed knee. 'Lord, something awful has happened! Lord, help me! Lord, I'm afraid! I'm angry! It's an emergency! Need you now'.  I want you to scoop me up and make it better. Make it un-happen. 

And then I want my Father to sit down and listen to my dilemma with rapt attention and tell me what the best course of action might be. So that then I can go off in peace and do as I'm told without the responsibility of it. Without having to be the one who made the choice in case it's wrong. If I'm doing your will, it will be ok, won't it? So tell me what to do because I'm afraid of making mistakes, of getting it wrong.

Of looking silly. Of doing the wrong thing. I don't want to use my brain, or try to work it out - I just want you to tell me. If you were to make it all clear, Lord, then the chances are that I wouldn't come running to you to put it right when it goes wrong, would I?  So easier all round in the long run. 

Do what I want you to do, when I want, will you? 

Do it quickly when it's an emergency. And I'll decide what constitutes an emergency, ok?

Tell me what to do next when I need to know. Of course, there are times when I already know, so if you could just incorporate what I think is best into your plan as well, we'll all be happy. Won't we?

How did Margaret Silf get in my head, then? How did she know that I think this way? Could it be that other people think this way?

Is God an operations manager 
who puts our plans into effect in the way we desire?

Oops. I think I just said pretty much exactly that, didn't I? Ahem. I didn't mean it quite like that...

Is God a policeman or a strict teacher,
always on the watch for us
to make a mistake
and lay ourselves open to punishment?
Clocking up our good and evil deeds
to decide whether we get through the entrance exam
for heaven?

Ah. Now this I can relate to. I know it's not right but sometimes I do find myself thinking that you're there to catch me out. That when I mess up it's a black mark against me and you won't forget. Even though I know that you not only forgive me but you have promised to remember my sins no more I still wonder if things happen to me that I deserve. Maybe it's payback time... maybe this is why this happened... what goes round comes round...

I am so glad that I keep coming back to your promise that if you wash us, if you cleanse us with your forgiveness, that we will be clean. Properly clean. Justified. Redeemed. Invited to approach you as friends. As your children. As heirs in the Kingdom of God. This doesn't sit well with the image of you as a nitpicking judge who is never satisfied with our behaviour. I know you better than that. 

Yet still I fall for it from time to time. Still the little insinuating voice of the other guy penetrates and I find myself wondering if I've blown it this time. If there's a way back. If I've offended you so properly this time that you won't listen to my prayers any more...

Or perhaps God is an employer,
who drains the last ounce of energy from us 
and demands our unpaid overtime
in our efforts to 'do God's will'?

Ha. This is the chasing my tail thing. The feeling that I'm a hamster on a wheel and I can't move fast enough for there is so much that needs doing; good things. Things that need doing, and I need to get them done. If I don't, then who will? And if a job needs doing, it needs doing properly, and if you want it done properly, best do it myself... 

I am slowly learning this lesson. I'm sure that won't stop me needing to learn it again every so often but at least it's still familiar. I know that you don't want me to be so busybusybusy that I never get a chance to stop and think. Stop and be. I am getting so much better at saying, 'No,' to things that I'm sure sooner or later you're going to prod me and remind me to say 'Yes,' once in a while.

Or is God the fixer,
who keeps us safe, 
solves our problems,
rearranges creation
too suit our needs?

Now I'm a bit confused. You are sort of like a fixer, aren't you? Is it wrong to ask you to keep me safe? When I have a problem I do come to you. Shouldn't I come to you? I'm not convinced about the rearranging creation bit, though I have to say that at times it might seem like a good idea to me. Bit like praying in a geography exam that Mt Everest might turn out to be in Scotland because I chose B rather than D.  Not that this ever actually happened, you understand.

So what if I got Everest mixed up with Ben Nevis? It's an easy mistake to make. Mountains, snow on top, you know.

Anyway.

You know what I think? I think that maybe you are a tiny, tiny bit of all these misconceptions. You do keep me safe. You sometimes fix things. You sometimes ask me to push myself more than I want to. You sometimes call me to account and let me know that I'm out of line. You do guide me and rescue me and above all you hear every last prayer that I pray, whether it's misguided or childish or perfectly formed and theologically on the ball.  I imagine you're still waiting for that last one.

To subscribe to any one of these misconceptions is to skew our view of you, I know. To believe that you are a policeman or a magician or a sticking plaster is to try to pin you down and make you small and understandable and to get it wrong. But hey, I'm human, aren't I? If I got a grasp of who you really are I guess it would blow my mind.

These are caricatures of course,
and yet, how easily, how subtly, we slip into
one or other of these false and damaging images of God.

One or other, or all, at some time or another...

Because we are human, this will always be so, to some extent.
But to recognise the limitations of our images of God
is an important step to going beyond them. 

Sometimes I get a glimpse of you, Lord. Sometimes I get a second's sense of how vast and brilliant you are. How brightly you shine. The beauty of you. It leaves me reeling, but I'm not equipped to hold a thought like that for very long. So I try to bring you down to my level.

To ask you to do what I want you to do. 

I try to assert my independence even in prayer, don't I? 'Not my will be done, but yours...but if you could make your will a bit like mine that'd be great.'

Lord, forgive me when I try to diminish your glory. Forgive me when I want you to be something other than you are; for anything else is inferior. My imagination can't create anything worthy of you. 

Teach me to pray again, Lord. Help me to take it apart and build it in the way you would want it built.




Continued... next day....

Well, thank you, Lord, for a little word in my ear this morning.

We sang this song in church today and I love that I heard you speak:

You are For Me by Kari Jobe

So faithful, so constant and so true
So powerful in all you do
You fill me, you see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to you

So patient, so gracious, so merciful and true
So wonderful in all you do
You fill me, you see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to you


I know that you are for me, I know that you are for me
I know that you will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that you have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who you are.

Lord, yesterday I was asking who you were. I was exploring misconceptions that I fall for so often about you. I get it wrong. I make you into something less than you are. My image of you as my loving father gets all skewed and I get confused and scared and diminish you.

I wanted to see you and hear you and understand something of what you're like and today you told me, 'Alright then, this is Me'.

Faithful, constant, true, powerful, fulfilling, all-knowing, all-seeing, loving.

Patient, gracious, merciful, wonderful.

The main thing that I need to remember, though, my loving Father who smiles when I sing to you with all my heart - I need to remember that you are for me. You are on my side. You will never turn your back on me, no matter how wrong I get it.

I know that you are for me.

And when I wonder, when I search, when I look for you, you lean down and write on my heart.

To remind me who you are.

Love you, Lord. Thankyou.







You are for me, Kari Jobe, 2009 Gateway publishing

(Edited and reposted from a while ago.) 

5 comments:

  1. You Are For Me is one of my hands-down, favorite songs. I want it sung at my funeral.:)
    We have been in a Bible study this summer that has pushed that perception of God to me. It's challenging me to recognize He is so much more than just what He can do (and does) for me. A rich word, as usual, friend.

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  2. Thank you, Ginger. I'd love to be part of your Bible study!

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  3. I know other people think this way.... so grateful that we have a God who has grace and patience when we limit Him to our understanding.

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  4. Helen, this is something we can all relate to as most of us have entertained thoughts like this about God at some time or other. I love how you trace your questioning back to knowing God experientially as He reveals Himself to you. When our hearts have knowledge of His love and grace then we have 'evidence' enough to convince us. The mind alone cannot fathom His mystery. A thought-provoking post, my friend! Blessings :) xx

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  5. Before our devotions this morning, there we were, Jen and I, sitting in bed, on our smartphones, each reading this blog as received via email. It was a good start to the day!
    Yes, the problem isn't with any of these understandings of God, or rather, any of these approaches to God. The problem, as you say, is if we assume any one of them is the only way to talk with God or to understand him.
    Praying for parking spaces is a sad and pathetic thing, if that is our only prayer. But if it is part of a rich involvement with God in every part of our lives, significant and trivial, well, what a splendid thing to drive with Jesus and even talk about parking spaces.
    Thanks so much for this, Helen.
    Blessings!

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