As mentioned in my last post, my relationship with God was somewhat tortured and complex in times past. Much of that was due to the tortured and complicated relationship my parents had between themselves and with God. After all, the first god a child knows is his or her father. Daddy is, in the eyes of a child, all-powerful, all-knowing, and, if needed, he might be able to walk on water. When good old dad turns out to have feet of clay, a kid’s faith can go south quickly.
My brother and I were raised to respect our elders, be as competitive with each other as possible, and heed Dad’s commandments. We were taught about the Bible and Christianity simply and fundamentally using a ten-volume set of illustrated books The Bible Story. For many years we prayed to our Lord, asking Him to take our souls if we should die before waking.
That little prayer and the Bible stories were all we needed at the time. In fact, some of what I learned during those years stuck with me after I rebelled against God, so-called Men of the Cloth, and people who claimed to be devout believers. Later in life, even when I was angry at God, I had a bit of peace that helped me avoid hating my enemies. I knew, at some level, we all get what we deserve in the end. I watched that play out numerous times. I was not that good at loving my neighbor, but I was able to avoid hating or dwelling on those who wronged me.
The downside to the way I believed was also one of the things I held dear; we all get what we deserve eventually. It took a while for me to get mine, but get it I did. Yes, I had done my share of less than honorable things and treated people in ways that might have appalled my mother if she had known.
God first got my attention in 1989. The details are not important here. Suffice it to say God showed me how foolish and self-absorbed I had been in a way I would not wish on my worst enemy. It was not as bad as the trials Job faced, but it felt that way to me. Also, unlike Job, I had no faith in anything other than myself. Still, at the time, I did as I learned to do as a teenager, ignore the pain, and make things as right as I could. It worked to some degree, but some of the damage could never be completely healed.
Five years later, God hit me again. Oddly enough, this time, I recognized this was a message, and I realized it was one I should heed. Yeah, I was a bit hard-headed in those days, but I was not wholly ignorant of my failings. When God arranged to give me a taste of my own medicine, I took note and knew exactly who was behind it.
It may seem narcissistic of me to think God was personally involved in my life to the degree I believe. After all, I had done everything I could to prove He was just a figment of His follower’s imagination, or they were nut-cases. Thankfully, our God does not abandon someone just because that someone is a jerk. He will give us numerous chances to recognize Him and accept His Grace.
For the record, I am not saying, as some contemporary Christian musicians have alleged, God recklessly pursues us, breaking down walls to save us. The reality is he is always there, and he is always giving us opportunities to look beyond our noses and our personal agendas. Still, if we just refuse to hear Him, He will let us fall into the abyss.
As my last post implied, we are all in the valley of the shadow of death to a degree. As we begin to, hopefully, emerge from the valley, we have choices to make. For those of us who believe, we are getting a glimpse of how dark things can be, and we need to reach as many people as possible to give them hope when the next trial comes. That means being open about who we are and what we believe.
This situation, this pandemic, this hysteria, whatever one calls it, is an open door for believers. The door may only be open a crack, but those who have strayed, those who doubt, those who fight Him tooth and nail, might be looking for hope in a way they have not in the past. The majority may still have hearts wrapped in steel, but some may have seen Him working through others during this crisis.
Those who have seen His work may be seeking to understand more than they ever would have in the past. They have been and will be watching those of us who claim to follow Him. They need to see how He sustained us and got us through this valley. If they do, they may be one step closer to walking with our Lord and Savior.
My prayer is that everyone sustained by Him during this mess will let those around them, especially the skeptics and unbelievers, know how they made it through these challenging times.
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