Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My God

Two days ago, a series of powerful storms ripped through the Midwest. Crews are still assessing damage. Families will be cleaning up for days and weeks to come. Communities will be rebuilding for months, maybe longer. And in the midst of it all, believers will continue to distort the name of God.

This is one of the things in our culture that pains me whenever I see it, maybe the most painful after a day like Sunday. In our postmodern, egocentric, 21st-Century culture of individualism, we've taken "My God" too far.

I can't tell you how many times over the past two days I have heard from friends or seen on Facebook praises to God for sparing this person or that family from the storms. Praise God my family is safe! they will say. Or Thank God for sparing us the storms! Or worst yet, My God is so good! No damage! 

Which is all well and good when that's your God, but it's a tough pill to swallow when that's our God.

This kind of thinking sets believers up against one another. It sets us in a battle of faith that quite frankly, isn't productive for anyone and isn't honoring to the name of God. It sounds honoring, with all those words we put in there like praise and thanks, and awesome God. But as I sift through the rubble of my home (figuratively, for I, too, was spared the brunt of the storm), I can't help but grow bitter at your God, who until two days ago, I thought was also my God (which would have made Him our God) except that now, He obviously favors you and while I'm trying to figure out just what in the world happened to my life as I knew it, now I'm trying to figure out just what happened to my God.

Who was busy protecting you while the winds whipped my shelter to shreds.

So in the midst of an already trying time, now we have a world wondering. What happened to my God? Where is my faith lacking? What did I fail to do, or what did I do that I shouldn't have done, that caused my home to shake and not yours? What makes my God inferior to your God, that such devastation comes on me? And the answer could be any number of things - that my faith is not strong enough, that God does not love me, that God is not good, that I don't know God, that God doesn't know me. The list goes on and on.

Now, I hate you. And I'm not sure about my God. And at the very moment when I most need community to rally around, something to hold onto, I'm direly alone and cut off because it isn't ours any more; it's mine and yours.

That's true, I notice, when persons rush in to help their neighbors, too. Every once in awhile, the news will show a community coming to help someone pick up the pieces, and they always talk to the helper. And the helper always says something like, "Well, I was very fortunate, and my house and family are ok, so I wanted to come and help someone else." My...and your.... Forget the fact that we share a post office and a gas station and a Wal-Mart. It's still mine...and yours.

Whatever happened to ours?

It's a tough balance. I get that. In a world in which we've emphasized a personal relationship with God, it's hard to figure out how He could ever be both mine and yours. How are we supposed to celebrate the communal God? How are we supposed to worship what is ours, when the most powerful connection we have with Him is that He's mine - a byproduct of our culture telling us that is what He is supposed to be.

It's a horrible mess, and I can only begin to sort things out. Bear with me in the coming days as I sort of think out loud in this space to figure out how we get what's mine and yours back to what is ours. So that God always draws us together rather than tears us apart.

And if you happen to be near one of the areas hardest hit by Sunday's storms, or by any disaster or misfortune, go lend a hand. Not out of gratefulness, but out of grace. Because that's our brother, that's our sister, and this is our community.

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