I need to rant about God for a few moments. I see popular blogs bashing churches. I see blogs bashing the bashers. Why people are walking out of churches. Why churches think some people should leave…. Why churches think their God only lives within their walls of stained glass and soaring ceilings. Everyone has their opinion of what is real and true.
What is real to me? Is God real to me? Do I even know what that means? What do I really know? Here it is….
Deep in the woods, standing before a roaring waterfall, I grew hoarse raging at God for what was happening in my life. And what do I hear? Him telling me to let it all out. Him trading my anger for peace. That was real.
I struggle through my work week, fighting resentment, defensiveness, selfishness, and impatience. I ignore Him in my actions and words. I fail to reflect Him to my coworkers. And yet, when I come crawling back, exhausted and disillusioned, I feel Him clearly whispering to start again and refreshing forgiveness washes over me. Real.
I walk alone through my beloved redwoods at dawn. Shocked into silence as I crane my neck to see the tops of the trees crowding around me. I can’t seem to choke out a word as I am humbled by the evidence of my Creator God everywhere I turn. That… is so real.
I slide into the pew at church. I feel a strong hand grip my shoulder. Turning, I see white hair and a big smile. My good friend looks me straight in the eye and asks me how I am. He listens to my doubt and discouragement without wavering or letting go. That…. is God real.
I see a nurse who never, whether in the back of a kindergarten class at church, or zipping down the hall in the hospital, never…ever passes me without a hug. God…in that hug… is real.
I wrestle with indecision, pushing God for answers, the problem too confusing for me to unravel. I finally drop off to sleep. I come sharply awake at 2am and cannot go back to sleep. Rising, I prowl the house, scavenge coffee, end up in my office, writing as my listening turns into thoughts and words and clarity. Wisdom beyond me. An answer full of balance, strength and grace. That is real.
I know what I feel and hear from God in my life. That is real. I match that with what I read in the Bible and it fits.
I know that while I was yet a sinner, Jesus gave His life for mine. I know that He takes me each and every day where I am, and pulls me closer and closer to Him. When I speak harsh words at home, when I criticism creep into my voice with my girls, when my words to coworkers come out sharp and unkind, when I harbor dark thought about those who have wronged me, when I am disgusted with my procrastination and waste, when I ignore hurting people in my path, He takes my sinful, messed up self, just like that, with no qualifications or limits, no reservations or conditions,no prerequisites or boundaries, and sometimes whispers, sometimes pounds a message into my heart. I am loved. I am accepted. I am treasured. I am wanted. That is real.
I celebrate by letting Him work on me, believing that His work will make me look more like Him. Real.
Is God real to me as I read through a dusty lesson at church, struggling over a teaching full of polysyllabic words and churchisms? Not so much. But His love is real through the touch and acceptance of those around me. Is God real to me as I see church members pulled apart by worship and music style arguments? No, but He is real to me as I lead children singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know…” Is God real to me as I see all the pride, vanity, deceit, selfishness, apathy, and blindness in church? Yes, since all those things find their way into my life and I know I have plenty of like company there. And I know that what’s real is a God who loves to have us bring to Him all our broken puzzle pieces so He can heal and complete and reset us.