THE WILL OF GOD (pt. 4) Peeling back the "Onion Skins" of "our"God in order to find Something Real
Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Something you might not know about me is that I'm a big "Jewel" fan. When I was a youth pastor back in the late "90's" Jewel came out with her first hit song, "Hands". She was just 18 years old, and my youth just adored her! Here's a bit of the song:
If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
Won't be idle with despair
I'll gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
I learned recently that when Jewel wrote this song she was living in a van and had just shoplifted something, and was feeling convicted about it.
All the youth in my community loved Jewel because she was a dreamer. She was always imagining a better world, but to be honest, she was (even by her own admittance) a bit naive. But, the cool thing about some artists, is that they actually grow up! Listen to one of Jewel's recent hits: "Goodbye Alice in Wonderland"
Fame is filled with spoiled children They grow fat on fantasy I guess that's why I'm leaving
I crave reality
So goodbye Alice in Wonderland Goodbye yellow brick road There is a difference between dreaming and pretending I did not find paradise It was only a reflection of my lonely mind searching For what was missing in my life
I like this song, because I think it resonates with my growing understanding of God. One of the most frustrating parts of the God journey for me, is the fact that I feel too many of us give up on the journey. We turn 16 or 22 or 53 and we have something happen in our life that is truly a struggle. And this event makes us question everything, especially our understanding of God. And unfortunately our understanding of God has somehow stopped with our elementary Sunday School class. We have an image of God as an All-Powerful God of love who is going to keep us safe and warm and out of trouble. And that works until LIFE HITS!!! And then, instead of pealing back some of the onion skins on that "childhood" understanding of God, we just throw the whole thing out! We don't realize that as we grow up and mature, our understanding of the Sacred or God can and should too!
As we look at this new image of God that I've put forward in "The Will of God"... this image of a river that can be dammed up for a while, but eventually finds a way... is really nothing new. Leslie Weatherhead was writing about this understanding of God in 1943! Theologians from the get go have been saying this, but we have been too infatuated with a God who is "All-powerful", "Knows-everything", "Ever-present", and "Never-changing", that we haven't really been paying that much attention to it. (By the way the capitols on those words are intentional...that's how we learned them!) And to be honest, pastors, including me, have been kind of afraid to bring it up.
So, one of the criticisms of this model of God, is that it doesn't fit these words: all-powerful, etc. But here's the thing...these words were never meant to be absolute terms...they were meant to be comparative. Compared to humans, God is all-powerful. Compared to humans, God is ever-present. Etc. So in that sense, this river image does work.
I know, though, that at first I struggled with this concept of a God that God didn't have all the power. It's kind of scary, at least at first, to believe and put our trust in a God who isn't in control of everything. But think about it for just a moment, why did we rebel against our parents, or leave home early? Because we "needed" to have some control of our own. We needed to be free to make our own decisions, both good and bad, and learn from them!
The price of that freedom is a giving up of power. We, as parents, give up that power, not because we believe our children are going to make perfect choices, but because we love them enough to let them start living life in all that it is intended to be...and much of that involves learning to live with freedom.
Let me say one more thing about "peeling back the onion skins". Sometimes people haven't been willing to peel back some of the onion skins, because the church wouldn't let them. They felt like if they expressed how they really felt; that if they expressed some healthy doubt about their faith; that they would be labeled "unbelievers", "back-sliders", and be "kicked out" or "ostracized." What a mistake that has been by the church! Some of the great growth in our understanding of God or the Sacred, comes from doubt! It is often through doubt, that we learn to peel back some of the old onion skins of our understandings of God. And when we do that, we often find something more "real". And that we can "ground" ourselves in this "realness", instead of pretending we believe something that we don't!