Thursday, May 6, 2010

Idol Worship

I wrote not long ago about turning God into nothing but mere superstition. That is not the only way I shape Him in my image. Too often, particularly when the answers don’t come as I would expect them, I begin to worship Him as a lesser god, even an idol.

What sets God apart from other deities in other religions is that He cannot be bullied and cannot be bought. His mercy and grace pour freely forth from His blessed hands, and He loves to live and work in relationship with us. He doesn’t care that we’re not perfect; He has already redeemed that. He doesn’t answer the richest, the loudest, the most demanding first; He answers us equally, according to our need.

I know this, but I don’t live by it. Not always. This has never been clearer than in my prayers for a job. This is my most recent, and perhaps largest challenge ever. God has made me beautiful. He gifts me in new ways – big and small – every day. My heart does not lose sight of this. But when one more rejection comes or a long period of silence or a drought in the job market where there’s nothing to even fudge my skills and apply for over several days, I wonder why He is so silent on this one issue.

This one place so close to my heart and…nothing.

That leads me to wonder if I’m looking in the right places. If I have the right methods of discernment to discover His will. If I’m being obedient in each step of my life, each movement of my walk. If I am praying long enough, often enough, hard enough, loud enough, softly enough, with enough tears. If I am being honest and forthcoming with God. If I am being too selfish, too focused on what I think I want.

These are not light questions, nor are they bad ones. These (and many more that come up so often) are great spiritual disciplines to consider! Who wouldn’t want to be looking in the right places, following God, discerning His will, praying fervently and appropriately, and so on? We all want that.

It is the next step that dooms me. It is the step I take where I turn God into a rewards God – the kind of god who will answer when I persist, who will see my labor and my emotion and answer me, the one who will only respond when I get it just right or fix everything to be perfect. Sure, this leads me to pray more, but this is not the way to cultivate a truly powerful prayer life.

This is simple manipulation. And it fails. When it fails, then I question still whether I am doing it right, enough, appropriately, persistently, and so forth, and I wonder just what in the world is wrong with God that He is so demanding, so stubborn, so ignorant that He could just turn His back on me like that.

Who does He think He is anyway?

Then I’ll switch modes and start making deals…and sometimes threats. If, God. If You bring me a job, then I promise I’ll never: (fill in the blank). If You bring me a job, I’ll do better at: (fill in the blank). If You don’t answer me soon, I’m turning my back. I’m going against everything I think I believe, and I’ll just do whatever I please, and You can deal with it. IF I even tell You about it. Or worse – I’ll just quit! What will You do when I give up on You because You’ve given up on me?

That’ll show Him.

None of it works, of course. God cannot be bought or bullied, and that is why I love Him so much. Because I know that the love He showers on me, the gifts (both big and small) of every day are absolutely undeserved. He cherishes me. He adores me. He loves gifting and blessing me, working behind the scenes to weave the most intricate tapestry of my life.

I delight in that. I delight in Him.

He delights in me.

That’s where the rub is: in all of this, through the frustration and the waiting and the excruciating questions, my heart never loses confidence. He is working; I know this. He has something incredible in store; He’s promised this. He steadies my heart and assures me anew every day of what’s to come. In generalities, but that’s just fine with me. His confidence is enough.

So He doesn’t even let me worry.

Still, it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to think about a dwindling bank account, an approaching arbitrary deadline, absolute rejection by the entire working world, and all the millions of little things that come with all of that. It’s hard not to wonder if I’m praying hard enough or loud enough or being faithful enough or earning what I’m asking for. It’s hard to let God be Who He Is (and always Has Been and always Will Be) when He doesn’t seem to be on the same page as I am. When He seems to be living on a whole different planet, with a different life and different circumstances and….

Doesn’t He know what this is like? Doesn’t He “get it”?

He does, and that is why I love Him. That is why on the off chance I try to follow my own heart instead of listening to Him, I end up right back at Him. That’s the way He’s changed my heart – to pursue His ways by nature, by rote, by instinct. That’s beautiful.

It took too many years to figure out that I was doing this, that I was turning God into the same kind of idol He so detested throughout His Word (and still does today), the kind of God He has never been, never will be, and never can be. Now that I know that, I still do it. But I know how to fall out of that trap. I know how to catch it, pull myself back, and remember His goodness. It rests in my heart.

In all the faith, hope, love, beauty, grace, mercy, confidence, and assuredness in the world.

Not that I’d mind Him finally answering, finally fulfilling the steadiness He’s given me by placing me in the right job. Soon. 

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