We hear tell of a god that makes everything better.
And that’s the one we look for, want, and even demand. We are compelled by messages that speak of happiness, success, affluence, ease. We decry the slightest wobble in our own “faith;” the smallest doubt that all this and more can be ours. Any sign of weakness, vulnerability, or fear is swiftly exorcised as we work faithfully to buck-up, think-positive, and self-talk ourselves into green(er) pastures. We push and pray and push some more to set intentions, make them manifest, and self-actualize. We must stay in the light, must dwell in the affirmative, must keep moving forward toward all that we desire and deserve. Never mind that most, if not all of this remains just beyond our reach. We continue to pay alms at this altar – no matter the cost.
But when do we confess?
- That this isn’t our experience – of God, of the Divine, or of life.
- That there’s more to our story than the veneer that gleams.
- That in quieter moments, barely whispered between audible breaths, we hear a truer self, a deeper self that tells us something is “off,” wrong, or at least disconcertingly amiss.
- That much around us (and within) feels upside down and backwards.
- That we’re exhausted and lonely.
- That when we get right down to it, we feel disconnected from our very self – and certainly from any sense of God – or at least a God who makes any sense.
The God we truly long for, whether confessed or not, dwells in stories that don’t make sense; in a story like ours.
Not the story our culture is peddling; the stories we hear, live, and intuitively know. Real ones – mythic, sacred, and lived.
- Icarus. Sisyphus. Pandora.
- Eve. Hagar. Leah. Tamar. Ruth. Esther. Mary. Jesus.
- Saint Francis of Assisi. Sojourner Truth. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nelson Mandela. Thomas Merton. Mother Theresa.
- C.S. Lewis. Virginia Wolff. Ayn Rand. Anne LaMott.
- My girlfriend, Nancy. My girlfriend, Beth. My boyfriend. My daughters. Me.
Every story on this list has more aspects that don’t make sense than do. Futility. Harm. Sacrifice. Violence. Suffering. Poverty. Death. Depression. (Lack of) health. Disaster. Struggle. Sadness. Cost. And in the midst, a God who shows up.
Here’s my confession and deepest belief:
Your story – in its most earthy, messy, and raw places is holy ground. And this is good news. It means you can leave behind the tyrannic demand for a God, an experience of the Divine, that makes everything better (who, frankly, is not to be found, hence your difficulty in that finding) and turn toward the one who says, “You are never alone.”
It is in the darkness that light shines forth. It is in our pain that healing comes. It is in our suffering that strength breaks through. It is in our labor that birth occurs. And it is in all of this that God shows up – in miraculous, beyond-belief ways. In stories – real, sacred, mine…and yours.