In a mere moment my life was shattered. Who is this god I worship? Holy and pure, righteous and just, is he upset with me? Do I make him happy or disappointed? Is my life good enough to please his holier than though posture, for he judges the world with wrath right? Is it his voice telling me I am not good enough, that I need to do better? What does he say or do to me when my arrows miss the mark? Is he the voice that says repent or go to hell?
Whose face do I see in the mirror? When I see myself standing there, how do I interpret the reflection? Is it shame, disappointment, frustration, anger, rage, the cold shoulder, judgment and even worse condemnation? Am I worthy of standing in the presence of such a god, who with his look manipulates and controls me to do whatever it is he wants? In the presence of this god I feel crushed, chained, and burdened. In his presence I understand myself as a cadet crushed and chained by the power of the system.
This god makes me feel terrible and awful as he shows off his skills to the crowd. This god feels like the parent or boss who yells and screams saying, “I can’t believe you did that! You fool! Don’t you know better? You idiot.” Or maybe it feels like the cold shoulder of disapproval, or even the silent treatment. This god says, “You better shape up or else!” Pressure. Punishment, urgency and hurry are his techniques to get the desired outcomes. “If only you could be good,” he says, “I could do something with you.”
This god likes it better when I am afraid of him. He takes pleasure as I squirm and sweat, trying to be a better person. I walk on eggshells around such a god, hoping I don’t do something to piss him off. He is only on my side when I am doing as he wishes. He cheers me on and shows his love, but only when I score the goal, or make the pass, or keep the ball on the field. His attention is conditional, his affection determined by my performance, and his love contingent on outcomes. Perhaps this is not the true God, the one who formed me in my mother’s womb, the one who knows me by name, and can count the number of hairs on my head. Maybe this god is not God; maybe I have created a god in my own image.
In a moment, my eyes were opened as I saw for the first time the beauty of love. It was like waking after a long dark sleep to a rising sun full of warmth. It was like coming out of a piercing winter of a perpetual absence. It was like digging a pit too deep to climb out and suddenly a finding the hand of a friend to pull me out. You might say it was like carrying a load and suddenly, in a moment, there was no load to carry at all. Perhaps it was like life itself breathed a breath of life power into my soul. The rain fell on dry land.
His rod and his staff, they comforted me. He led me to eat and drink. He led me into the valley of shadow and death, and there he said, “Fear not, I am with you.” He prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies, in the presence of all the lies and perversions of who he is, there he anoints my head with oil and fills my cup till it overflows. Surely his goodness and mercy will follow me, everyday, in every moment. I can rest assured I will dwell in his house forever.
In this moment I speak of, I heard a different voice, a voice that speaks in the silence. A voice that says, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” I said, “But you don’t know me, you don’t understand what I have done, or what I am capable of doing. Obviously you can’t love me. I am unlovable. I am unworthy. I could do better. The voice again said, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” “No it can’t be! I said. “I deserve more punishment. I am not ready. I am still I!” The voice told me again, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
He tells me that I am before I do. Don’t worry, he says. He really does want what is best for me. He is gentle and kind, tender and strong. He is capable of handling my sin. He says, “Ok you missed the mark. I’ll take care of that. Your job is to let it go. Let it out and move forward in becoming the kind of person I can trust to carry out my will, the redemption of the world. Go and be forgiven, and be empowered to live in a response to the reality of such great and unforeseen forgiveness.
Jesus may your love be enough because you said it is so. Amen.