Heartburn

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” {Luke 24:32}

For a while now I’ve been really struggling with my idea of God. I have a tendency toward legalism and knowing that is not a solution. I have been taught that God is very angry and that His anger must be appeased. He’s the punisher and Jesus, I was taught, the redeemer. This lesson was delivered in various forms throughout my life, but I’m not sure exactly why it is so engrained. Regardless, I default to an image of a wrathful deity seeking blood for the sins of humanity and a smallish half-god staving him off.

This is not what I read in the Bible. This is what I have read into the Bible at times and what others have preached, but it is not the truth. But again, knowing that is not enough.

So I’ve been struggling with this head knowledge of a god who loves us and this heart message of a god who is one sin away from being done with me forever. I have fretted and worried over the state of my soul while trying to act out my theology of a quick-to-forgive, slow-to-anger, steadfast-love kind of God. I have prayed to feel His love, while believing that He didn’t want me to.

And yet, I’d see the Gospel in a movie and my spirit would dance. I’d delight in my daughter and get a glimpse of what it might be like for a God who calls Himself Father to delight in us. I’d hear songs like this one and my heart would burn. But it wouldn’t be long until I let go of hope. Not long before I would stop letting myself fall for a love way too good to be true. I divided God from Jesus and began to turn against the Son. I started believing that He might have been a demon… Sent to give us this sweet tasting message that led us away from the real god. The angry god. The god who wasn’t going to let us get off that easy.

We get this idea of “Jesus the nice guy” vs. “God the righteously angry.” I don’t know if any teacher has ever articulated it like that, but it’s something a lot of us learn somehow even if we know it’s not the best way to describe the Father-Jesus relationship. And for many of us, that message takes root in our insecurities and we accept this sort of Greek idea of how the Heavens are organized.

But the God of the Bible is not that. He isn’t a lofty Classical deity, sitting high on a throne somewhere looking at us like ants and getting impatient with our trifle humanity. He is near and present and revealing Himself to His people. He isn’t beyond emotion, He is going through real heartache and real joy on our behalf (he says that He dances in delight!). From the beginning, from the first sin, He started a plan to make it right for us because He loves us.

So I’ve been really having a hard time with these competing ideas. Then the other night Gabe and I were talking about justification and I got to this point in the conversation where the theology escaped from the box and it became real. I could not deny – and my chained up spirit wouldn’t let me deny – that our God is the God who hung on a cross and died for the sins of the world. Our God stepped into time and space and washed our feet, forgave our sin, wept with us, carried our burdens, ate at our tables, explained His plan to us… Our God healed the sick and stood up for whores. Not a half-god sent to keep the angry one away a little longer, but GOD – creator, the one who spoke to Moses, the one who tested Abraham, the one sent prophets to testify about a coming redemption. This changes everything.

And the other night, when I couldn’t resist this love any longer, I found myself once again a mess on the floor with an anguishing spirit letting out cries and moans that communicated the things I don’t have words for. And I was met there. Away from my husband, from my comforts, from my propriety God held me and rocked his baby girl with sweet forgiveness glazing my doubt and gentle whispers that it’s true. He’s the one my soul longs for, He’s the One! And then my joy overflowed and I laughed with God in the dark and swam in redemption, basked in a long-awaited peace. Because God does things like that. He gives us riches of grace when we come in rags.

I’m sharing this because I know that I’m not alone. If you are afraid of God, take heart. If you are worried that your sin is too big or that things are too complicated, please believe what I say: it isn’t. Read the Bible – any part of it, the whole thing – and let yourself believe that the God behind it is absolutely in love with you and desires you. Those times when you feel hope, when you get glimpses of a love you know your heart is searching for, those are the times God is calling. His love is steadfast. He is quick to forgive. He is slow to anger. He is gracious and merciful. Believe it.

And when you’re having trouble believing it, don’t keep it a secret. Let’s be brave and question what we’re taught. If you are lacking a safe community, talk to me. Seriously. This is it, dear friend… This is the heart of it all… Does God love you? Truly? Does He want you to succeed in “finishing the race?” Is He rooting for you or is He the one you’re running from? Is He your punisher or your redeemer?

Let’s give over to God’s revelation about Himself…

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” {Exodus 34}

2 thoughts on “Heartburn

  1. Really relate to this one. About six months ago my good friend was getting counseling from our Pastor, and he asked her the simple question: “How do you view God” and listed some terms, much like you described. In talking to me about this I for the first time asked myself that. The Holy Spirit brought me to a place that I realized I saw Him {God, not “the nice guy Jesus”} as a task master. Putting me to the test to see if Leah could muster up, buck up, and pass through this one with out failing (always for my own good though of course to make me a better Christian) After, yes I was “a mess on the floor” and was almost embarrassed to hear and say out loud what The Spirit prompted that God has actually “a proud papa”. I share this because I know that those ingrained ideas don’t instantly wash down the drain, especially in times of stress and disappointment. And hope that the real and merciful God is still presently being felt and believed, not just an idea. Again, really glad I found your blog.
    Cheers,
    Leah

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s