Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hide and Seek

More than once when I’ve encountered an angry rant against religion— specifically Christianity—I’ve drafted a carefully worded response (after calming my knee-jerk, defensive reaction, of course). I would attempt to frame my arguments to support a logical, thoughtful conclusion. One that sought to answer questions or refute accusations in ways that would help the complainer to see that God isn’t who he thinks He is--or even that He actually is. Most of those responses have never seen the light of day (or social media either). Usually after spending several days thinking and writing and revising, I end up deleting them. Not because rational proofs are not possible, but because they tend to stir up argument rather than convince. So I end up saying nothing. But the problem is not the evidence, but simply that God doesn’t always feel the need to provide it.

If seeing is believing why doesn’t He appear in the clouds or smite a particularly wicked individual with a bolt of lightning? (Kim Jong-Un comes to mind). Maybe divide a sea or two during the evening news—that would settle the existence question pretty handily (and would add a lovely "I told you so" quality to the God debate). But God doesn’t have insecurity issues that might provoke Him to put on a display as proof He exists. He isn't answerable to our demands that He jump through hoops, like a show dog. He isn’t found by the casual observer, or the skeptic who just wants an argument. He so values our free-will that He has left room for doubt, which makes real choice possible. Definitive, in-your-face proof might make for grudging obedience but not friendship, and that’s what He’s after. God wants a loving family, not terrified slaves. So until we are genuinely interested in meeting God, He hides. But He also hints, leaving spiritual bread crumbs which draw the hungry into a search for the something more they sense is there, though they aren't quite sure what it is. And those are the ones who find Him. In the world of faith, seeing is believing is turned on its head, for God mostly reveals Himself to those who want to find Him. 

My encounters with the angry do leave me sad, though not the sadness of whether or not someone is “going to Heaven.” After all, the God who desires that none should perish can be trusted to give everyone on the planet as many opportunities as they need to make a decision about whether or not they want to spend eternity with Him. It makes my heart hurt that someone would believe that we’re just an accidental collection of atoms, with no purpose other than what we can scrape together for ourselves. That we slog along until we die and return to the earth to feed the grass…and that’s it…that’s all. No expectation that history is anything other than a collection of random happenings, which mean nothing. That there is nobody out there to call on for help any wiser, or stronger or more reliable than the next human being. Earth's only hope for a better future resting unsteadily on the weak and inconsistent "Goodness of Man." To believe, as Richard Dawkins does, in a world of “no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” He says that folks just need to deal with that reality and get on with it, but I don’t know how that encourages anyone to hope for a better tomorrow.  My sadness lies not in religion losing a convert, but rather that someone has missed knowing and experiencing God, Himself.

To know Him is to know that you are deeply, completely and fiercely loved, just as you are, unconditionally. It is to live, fuelled by the knowledge that no one is an accident…that you are here because God wanted you, the unique you who has never existed before and will never exist again. It is to know you have a purpose independent of the world’s criteria of personal achievement, or financial success, or intelligence, or physical appearance. It is to know that when bad things happen (and they will) that God is so deeply connected to and concerned about you that even your suffering and pain from living in this broken world will be redeemed and ultimately made useful to you. No one need face life and its challenges alone; for there is strength, companionship, encouragement, and support available in endless supply. To know Him is to have confidence that even in a world gone mad, there is someone at the helm, steering us safely through to history's conclusion. I would soon fall into despair, if all there was to believe in was Dawkins' bleak world of pitiless indifference. 

I rehearse these things to myself, so I remember that angry or even disrespectful encounters with unbelievers should not make me angry or disrespectful. I can tend that way, so I need reminding. Such encounters are not for scoring points or winning arguments. They are not for gaining a reputation for myself or even making converts. They are opportunities to introduce people to my closest friend, my comforter and counselor, the one who gave everything, so I could have everything. They are about love. So now rather than argue, I find myself praying, with tears, for those who do not yet know Him. For those who rage, because they have only encountered distortions of His character. For those who’ve been hurt. For those who’ve felt betrayed. For those repelled by the shenanigans (and worse) that go on in the name of God. For those who find it incomprehensible that God could be good, when the world is so bad. For those lost in the pain, and the fury and the darkness of themselves, convinced there is no door to freedom, because they've been unable to find it. But there is. It is only visible to those who are ready to see it. The ones who dare to seek the hidden God.


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