August 19, 2017

Damaris Zehner: My Dysfunctional Relationship with God

Rachel Hides Her Father's Household Gods, Chagall

Rachel Hides Her Father’s Household Gods, Chagall

My Dysfunctional Relationship with God

By Damaris Zehner

Have you ever been in a dysfunctional relationship?  Of course you have.  They are part of the sad reality of life in this world.  I’ve been in several.  Most, I’m happy to say, were ones I was able to walk away from once I recognized them for what they were.  I got a new job, for example, after I realized that daily rage-induced headaches were not healthy.  I broke off an engagement when I saw that we were divided not by our weaknesses but by our virtues – I thought stoicism and independence were good things, while he thought emotional interdependence was admirable and normal.  Inevitably, he thought I didn’t care, and I cringed at what seemed to be his neuroses.

I couldn’t walk away from all the toxic tangles so easily, though, because sometimes they came with family.  As Tolstoy knew, every unhappy family has its own story, so you don’t need the details of mine – and honestly, most of my life was good.  But my father degenerated after my parents’ divorce, and by the time I was in college, I found his alcoholism and craziness hard to deal with.  What made it especially difficult was that they were entwined with generosity and love – but very costly versions of those blessings.

So as soon as I could get independent, I did, finishing college in three years and a master’s degree in one.  My father wrote me long letters.  Mostly I ignored them, especially since several times he sent me back my letters to him with red-ink corrections.  He asked to be repaid for some of what he had contributed to my education, and I ignored that, too.  Instead I left him the sewing machine he had bought me as a gift but insisted must be kept at his house so I could sew for him.  His health got worse, and I didn’t visit him.  The only way I could cope with my anger and heartbreak seemed to be distance – the stoicism and independence my heritage admires.  For the most part it worked.  I was happy, I did well in my life, and I had – have – a great family and a good job; I can generally keep the regret under control.

But here’s the thing.  I treat God the way I treated my father.  There are a lot of parallels, if I’m going to be honest.  My father let me down when I felt I needed him; God has let me down when I felt I needed him.  My father’s demands on me were confusing and led to self-destructive personal behavior on my part; God’s demands on me seemed confusing and led to self-destructive religious behavior.  I had to turn my back on my father in order to gain health and perspective.  There was a time in my twenties when I realized that religion was making me crazy and turned my back on it entirely.  And I did gain some health and perspective.

Now, even though I have happily come back to faith, I recognize that I don’t seek intimacy with God.  I try to develop healthy spiritual disciplines of prayer, but, honestly, I just don’t want to.   I find every reason in the world not to pray.  I’d rather read other books than the Bible, and I’d rather discuss economics, ecology, or social issues than spiritual matters.  I’d even rather write a post about not praying than getting up and doing it.  About a week ago I asked myself why, and I arrived at the insight I described above:  part of me is angry and heartbroken at God and finds distance more reassuring than intimacy.

We’re told – and it’s true – that we have to do several things to heal from the effects of broken human relationships:  we have to dissociate ourselves from inappropriate guilt and blame; we have to try to understand the other person’s perspective, weaknesses, and struggles; and we have to forgive.  But what am I supposed to do to heal my distance from God?  As far as guilt and blame go, I accept that yes, I’m a sinner.  He isn’t an unreasonable perfectionist – he’s perfect.  I can’t really understand God’s perspective on things, and I don’t find the trite assurances of “God’s got a wonderful plan for your life” satisfying.  And how could I have the gall to forgive God?

Yet I believe.  I won’t give up.  Because there are three things my faith has that nothing else does.  Well, really one thing, but they can be viewed in three parts.  It’s funny how often that happens.

The first is grace.  God does not send my letters back corrected.  God is standing at the end of the driveway watching for me to come home, not in order to make me do his sewing but to throw me a party.  I believe this, at some level; at another level I’m pretty comfortable with the pigs.

The second is the Church.  I cling to the raft of the Church and let it carry me when I can’t carry myself.  Even if I can’t pray, I can be in prayer.  I am upheld by the great cloud of witnesses and can rest on the words and actions of millennia of fellow believers.

The third is the Incarnation.  I said that it’s healthy to try to understand the offending person’s perspective, weaknesses, and struggles.  I can’t understand the remote, perfect Godhead, but I can understand Jesus a little bit when he walked on earth, was despised, mocked, ignored, and killed.  That’s a good thing – a great thing, and a source of comfort.  I can at least see that my suffering is also God’s suffering, that the brokenness that breaks me broke him, too.

I realize the analogy falls down here, because Jesus’ actions toward us don’t arise from his “dysfunctional” life on earth, and I don’t need to make allowances for him as I would for a mortal person.  But I wonder, for my sake if not for his, whether I do need to forgive him.  There’s no point folding my hands piously and saying that God doesn’t need my forgiveness when I have resentment and disappointment and heartbreak still roiling around inside me.  Should I forgive as an act of healing, or is even the thought of forgiving God a heresy?

I don’t think it’s a heresy.  I think he understands what I mean.  We’re told that King David was a man after God’s own heart, and all I can figure, after stripping away the adultery, murder, and pride, is that God appreciated David’s honesty.  David confronted God in his confusion, anger, and despair, and God didn’t seem to mind.

I never healed my relationship with my father when he was alive, and realistically I know he was too far gone to do so.  However, I could have done more during his lifetime to avoid the regret I feel after his death.  I’m wondering now if there is more I can do to heal my relationship with God in this lifetime in order to avoid regret in the next.  Can I hand God the weight of resentment, anger, and despair I feel, not just at life but at him?  Is this what Jesus meant when he invited us, the heavy-laden, to give him our burdens and find rest?  Do I dare to forgive God?

Comments

  1. Damaris, great piece! And funny that you should mention “daddy issues”. My experiences with my alcoholic father were different, but still similar in that they formed my behavior toward God the Father.

    My father was no more than a ghost who passed through the rooms of the house on occasion, stopping once in a while to distribute the money when asked, but remaining remote. When my parents separated and dad moved out it was as if he stopped existing in my life. I rarely saw him, and after I left home I saw him even less. In 40 years past I think I saw dad three of four times

    So how does this affect my relationship with God? I treat Him just like I regarded my earthly father, as a ghost who passes through my stages of life, someone I can occasionally petition for some favor which He then willingly gifts me, but on whom I seldom spend much time thinking of.

    I KNOW that I should spend time in prayer developing a pattern of communication with God, but past history has informed me that the practice just sets me up for disappointment, so I refrain.

    So, who am I supposed to forgive, or DO I have to forgive ANYONE? The sad fact of the matter is that this same dysfunction carried over to my own behavior with my first daughter whom I haven’t spoken to in close to 20 years. When I DID have contact it was just too painful and awkward, so I avoided it, and her. THIS is MT everlasting regret.

    Human psychology is so complicated and then we carry it on over to our relations with the Creator of the universe. Does He understand? Certainly, but does He expect more from us? I’m not so sure on that count…

    • Robert F says:

      Thank you for sharing, for being willing to be vulnerable in your sharing, oscar. God bless you, and I pray that your relationships with your father and daughter one day will be healed, and that you will experience God’s love for you in this healing.

    • Damaris says:

      I’m sorry, Oscar. It’s hard.

  2. I recognize that I don’t seek intimacy with God. I try to develop healthy spiritual disciplines of prayer, but, honestly, I just don’t want to. I find every reason in the world not to pray. I’d rather read other books than the Bible, and I’d rather discuss economics, ecology, or social issues than spiritual matters. I’d even rather write a post about not praying than getting up and doing it.

    Hot dang, but does this resonate. And my reasons, like yours and Oscar’s, are my own. I’m angry that my original life’s goal – to be a theology professor – was thwarted (even though I know full well that’s not my actual calling). I’m mad that the fundamentalistic foundationalist propositional truth theory isn’t true because it undercuts my mania for surety. I’m mad that God won’t answer questions and set us all straight instead of letting us argue endlessly.

    On the other hand, I have NO surety that I would like the answers He would give me if He were to do that.

    Christe elieson.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’m mad that God won’t answer questions and set us all straight instead of letting us argue endlessly.

      Funny. The Jews are very comfortable with that.

  3. I’ve been here for a little while now. I don’t know books. I have been working 6 to 7 days a week ever since I can remember. Through high school I did a 7 day a week schedule nights and weekends. My teachers always said if you would just apply yourself. I always aced tests without study but never had time for homework therefore the barely passing grades. Even in that busy schedule I had time to party it was the 70’s. My father a rough neck construction worker liked his beer and an old smokey bar room. I remember him sitting me at tables while he sat at the bar.

    My father loved me. He did the best he could for me with what he had to offer. He left 20 years ago because he was going to smoke and eat whatever he wanted to and no one was going to tell him different. Took me 10 years before I could think of him without tears. That man gave me a work ethic. Everything I did reminded me of him.

    Then I heard one day from God as I was crying thinking about him that he wanted me to cry no more but to remember the things that made me laugh. I still struggle with the things that made his life harder though.
    It was a small voice that said it somewhere in the depths of me. That is how it mostly happens. I have stopped.

    Last year my sis died May 28 her birthday and she was the one who no matter what never got mad at me. Always was there for me. I can count on no one like I could on her. My wife now is a close second but not her.
    I still through it all come here every morning to be with HIm. I just can’t miss. I run late if I have to but I can’t miss. Somewhere there is this love that pulls me and there is this love that comes running here. Oh I screamed so loud that night on the mountain as she died. I thought I broke something inside myself. I apologized and said I’m sorry God I won’t do it again.

    In the last months As I am working through this I realized I need to forgive God. Then it was watered here. Just here so far. It was at this point I realized forgiveness isn’t a one way street with God. It is relational. Then I started to look at the others like grace. I can present myself as a gift to Him. That is grace. Didn’t paul say offer yourself. I know God did nothing wrong and in fact is a million times my sis. In saying I forgive Father it freed me. I felt the weight lift and the burden was lighter.

    Now he is teaching me to bow before people and no matter what they do pray a prayer of forgiveness in humility and lift them up to Him. Boy is that hard for me. Still I will endeavor to practice it because the first time when I knelt to pet the ladies cat who jumped on my shoulder to purr in my ear was an “accident” but I will never forget the words somewhere in the depths of me saying this is how I love. He showed me the cat’s love for the lady and His own and the love He had over me to gently nudge me to this position. God is cool….really the coolest. I know, can you tell I’m a product of the 70’s.

    Good article. I have to say honesty is the best way. He already knows and it is best to share it sometimes out loud and sometimes inside. If somewhere in that process when we get it out and there is nothing left to say there is an opportunity to hear Him. That is how it happens for me most times if I can come to an end of myself. Most times I still have too much to tell Him. He is a pretty good listener.

  4. turnsalso says:

    I’d even rather write a post about not praying than getting up and doing it.

    Preach, sister.

  5. Going through a very long, desert trek and the end is nowhere on the horizon. Not really a church wilderness, that’s OK; posts like this REALLY help. I need to get some things right with God before all else.

    thanks, Damaris, for letting us in behind the curtains. Maybe I’ll take those steps someday.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      I had one of those journeys many years back, a 5-7 stretch in a spiritual desert.

      If you haven’t already done so, I suggest reading “Disappointment with God” by Philip Yancey. It helped me begin seeing some greenery.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        (That should’ve been “…a 5-7 *year* stretch…”)

        • Not likely I’d get off with a “5-7” one day stretch…… thanks for the Yancey shout out, I’ll keep that in mind; for now, I just need to start in prayer SOMEWHERE…… anywhere.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            I feel for you, greg. I think that by the time I reached the most barren part of my spiritual desert, my prayer life had been reduced to one simple prayer and my walk had been reduced to one simple truth:

            The prayer: “God, please let me see some greenery again.”
            The truth: “Jesus, I know you exist and are with me.”

            That was it. That was all the spirituality I could muster. And I remember one day, when all the sudden I noticed some greenery, thinking, “When did this happen?”

            The odd thing is: I now LOVE that I went through that journey. I LOVE that I experienced totally lack of spiritual feelings, because now when I feel those same things coming on again, I just laugh and say, “Been there, done that,” and have no fear of the edges of the desert.

      • Damaris says:

        A great book, Rick. That and several others by Yancey are on our bookshelf.

  6. Thank you for the notion that I may need to forgive God, not that I know how to do that. Last fall my husband tried to commit suicide and last month we lost a much wanted pregnancy through a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that threatened my life. I’m exhilarated by the life we do have, but the stench of death is too close.

    • I’m sorry, Andie. That’s a terrible burden for you to be carrying. I’m reminded of St. Teresa of Avila, who told God, “No wonder you have enemies if this is how you treat your friends!”

      • Rick Ro. says:

        +1.

        All I can really say is, “Yikes!” I mean, that’s a lot of junk on your plate! Peace to you, Andie!

    • Robert F says:

      Sometimes it’s hard to see through the darkness. Hang in, and prayers to you.

    • Danielle says:

      Andie, I’ve had repeated miscarriages in the past year, the last one a bit before yours. So believe me when I say that I am sorry that you’ve had to go through that particular experience. It’s a heavy thing. For what it’s worth, you are not alone.

      I will remember you when I pray.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Last fall my husband tried to commit suicide and last month we lost a much wanted pregnancy through a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that threatened my life. I’m exhilarated by the life we do have, but the stench of death is too close.

      That is a time for Lamentation.

      Something the Happy Clappy Joy Joy wing of Christians have forgotten how to do.

  7. Having grown up in the church (UMC) and having been in various kinds of dysfunctional churches in my adult life (UMC, non-denom, SBC), I am now in my 50s. I’ve been out of the local church since early 2013, when the last church I was involved in closed its doors.

    I have been on a journey during these last two years trying to separate what various churches taught me about God from what I have learned to be true about God. Sometimes the two align, and sometimes they do not. As I work through things and forgive, I find it is a process of figuring out which threads do not belong in the weaving of my faith, and teasing them out of there without destroying the whole thing.

    Sometimes the things I first believe I need to forgive God for are actually things I need to forgive the church for, or an individual within the church, or a particular congregation.

    I am finding it is worth the effort, even if I do not have the courage to rejoin a local congregation in the future.

    • Robert F says:

      Vera,
      Sociologist Peter Berger, who often focuses on the character of religious belief in the modern world, describes the kind of faith rebuilding process you are going through as an “inductive approach” to religious belief. Using that approach, one finds in the traditional affirmations of religion what corresponds to the hard-won lessons of one’s own experience, and painstakingly constructs faith from the bits and pieces. He also calls this “religious bricolage”, and says that, despite the fragility and contingency of the resulting reconstruction, there is no other authentic way to go for those whose faith has been deconstructed by modern skepticism and modern consciousness and other forms of disillusioning experience. He also says that it’s worth the effort.

      • Wow! I had no idea that there was actually a name for what I have been doing the best part of my life! Thank you, Robert. I” have to read more of Peter Berger’s stuff.

        • Danielle says:

          +1. I was just thinking about how much that resonates.

          I’ve known for a while that I need to read Peter Berger’s books; I shall take this as a friendly reminder to get busy.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Doesn’t one of the Epistles speak of “Working out your salvation in fear and trembling”?

        Could he (St Paul?) be referring to this process of “religious bricolage”?

  8. Dana Ames says:

    Thank you, Damaris and all for your willingness to be vulnerable.

    Yes, we dare to forgive God, not because he needs it, but because *we* do, and he understands that. Honesty and forgiveness are the “one foot in front of the other” – consistent, faithful – that will take us along the path of humility, which Christ is, and of which he is the End.

    Lord, have mercy – grant your healing balm and care in every situation – on all.

    Dana

  9. Damaris, beautiful words! I wish I had your gift of eloquence and beauty!

    It never occurred to me that I need to forgive God until I read here sometime back about these rabbis who put God on trial at Auschwitz. It was thought that the story was a legend, but according to Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel it is true,

    “I was there when God was put on trial. … Why should they know what happened? I was the only one there. It happened at night; there were just three people. At the end of the trial, they used the word chayav, rather than ‘guilty’. It means ‘He owes us something’. Then we went to pray.” (http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/wiesel-yes-we-really-did-put-god-trial)

    Like you, Damaris, my experiences with my father were bittersweet. He was kind, hardworking, generous but also bigoted, emotionally manipulative and highly critical of me at times. And that became my image of God–still is, in many respects.

    I am ashamed at the thought of needing to forgive God. Unlike Wiesel, a teenager at the time, and the rabbis who put God on trial, found Him guilty and then went on to pray, I have trouble wrapping my head around the idea that God owes me anything. Isn’t it the other way around? And if in fact He owes me nothing then what do I need to forgive Him for?

    Even so, I see a therapeutic value in forgiving God. Perhaps if I could bring myself to do so I might be more inclined to forgive my own father and other “fathers” in my life who have proved deficient in many ways–and that includes me, as well, having been less than what my own children should have had for a father.

    But we can pray.

    • Reminds me of the passage in Exodus when the Israelites are grumbling in the wilderness. They have no water, and they blame Moses, who led them out of Egypt, but Moses insists their quarrel is with God. So God speaks to Moses and says “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17:6)

      The verb “to stand” means to stand in the dock- to go on trial. God is offering to submit to the prosecution of his people. Unjust? Backwards? Yes, but for some reason the all-wise God submits to it anyway, and Moses, on Israel’s behalf “strikes the rock” and out of it pours water, and the people drink the much needed water.

      I think we are destined to blame God one way or another for the failures and travesties of humanity. The striking thing is that God is willing to suffer the consequences of our blame rather than just demand that our moral compass be more accurate, and so by his stripes we are healed.

      • Excellent exegesis and application of this passage from Exodus 17. God is mindful of our weaknesses and is merciful, tolerant and long-suffering towards us. More than that, He Himself suffered for us in the Person of His Son. Thank you for this reminder.

        But then there’s that incident in Meribah as recorded in Numbers 20 when Moses, frustrated with the incessant complaining of the people and acting out in anger, struck the rock twice. God was displeased with Moses’ irreverence and said to him, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Numbers 20.12)

        Then again, I have on more than one occasion lashed out at God for not treating me as I thought I deserved at the time. And yet, He has consistently responded to me in kindness.

      • Damaris says:

        I always appreciate your thoughtful exegesis, Nate.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      “I am ashamed at the thought of needing to forgive God.”

      I mentioned elsewhere in a reply to a comment that the book “Disappointment with God” by Philip Yancey helped me begin moving out of a 5-7 year spiritual desert I was wandering through. I remember telling a fellow church-goer that I was reading this great book called “Disappointment with God” and her reaction was, “Oh, I could NEVER be disappointed with God.”

      Gee…thanks!!

      Anyway…I agree, there seems to be an element of shame associated in “forgiving God” or being “disappointed in God.” But tell Satan, “Screw you!” and go ahead and tell God you forgive Him and are disappointed with Him.

    • Damaris says:

      I hadn’t heard that about the rabbis, Calvin. Thanks for the link.

  10. Robert F says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and personal post, Damaris.

  11. Rick Ro. says:

    Wonderful post, Damaris! It seems to me that our Heavenly Father is all that an earthly father SHOULD be, but isn’t. Some people struggle mightily with the idea of who the Heavenly Father is because of who their earthly fathers are or were. That’s just the sad truth.

  12. Damaris, this is a wonderful post. Thank you so much for “risking” it with your honesty and clarity.

    In my 30s I went through some bad times, and sometimes in prayer would yell at God, blaming Him for my poverty, my pain, the breakdown of my family. Afterwards I would feel guilty, and apologize — but my apologies were nowhere near as heartfelt as my rage.

    Once during that time, I got a “message” in my mind. It said, “It’s OK to yell at God, to be enraged at Him.” It was like a Monopoly game’s “Get out of jail free” card. Since then, the burden of that guilt has been lifted from me and I have felt closer to God than when I was afraid of His retaliation.

    They tell you all sorts of things in church: God is pure love, God loves you, God will never leave you. So you pray in confidence for your dear family member to be healed, and of course, he dies in agony. So then you either paper over that big rip in the fabric of your faith by repeating loudly “God is love, God is love, God is love,” and trying to drown out the plain facts of life. Or you have to toss that particular fabric in the fire, and start to unlearn the church stuff and very slowly re-learn “faith” from the ground up.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever “forgiven” God, or felt the need to. I do think, though, that before you can forgive anyone, you have to allow yourself the hurt and pain and anger of the situation, to draw that poison out.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Nice complement to Damaris’ post, H. Lee.

      “So then you either paper over that big rip in the fabric of your faith by repeating loudly ‘God is love, God is love, God is love,’ and trying to drown out the plain facts of life. Or you have to toss that particular fabric in the fire, and start to unlearn the church stuff and very slowly re-learn ‘faith’ from the ground up.”

      Yep. Very nicely said.

  13. Thanks for being here, everyone.

  14. Robert F says:

    Forgiving, and being forgiven, is something I’ll have to learn in the next life, or not at all. It’s not that I hold grudges, or want revenge; it’s just that I have a habit of walking away from what’s too painful, both in myself and in my relationship to others. I don’t even know how to begin to answer the question of whether i need to, or should, forgive God. Would it help to make the pain and fear stop? Would it heal the sense of inadequacy? Would it help me to learn to be grateful? Too many questions, not enough time…not enough time…

  15. Lisa Dye says:

    Brilliant, Damaris. Thank you. Unfortunately, I think reassessment and disappointment is part of the package. We don’t get to this stage in life without some troubling, embittering junk. I just finished reading Ronald Rolheiser’s Sacred Fire. He said, “As we age we need to forgive–forgive those who hurt us, forgive ourselves for our own mistakes, forgive life for having been unfair, and then forgive God for seemingly not having protected us–all of this so that we do not die bitter and angry, which is perhaps the greatest religious imperative of all.” This is a hard word.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      “…we need to forgive…so that we do not die bitter and angry…”

      For some reason this line made me think of the movie “The Upside of Anger.” There’s a brilliant twist near the end that magnifies this idea in a jaw-dropping revelation. Highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it.

      http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-upside-of-anger-2005

      • Lisa Dye says:

        I read this review, Rick. I’m intrigued. Now, I want to see the movie. Thank you.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          As Ebert said, some felt the twist revelation was a cop-out. I found it one of the most profound moments in film history. If you see it, let me know by commenting on one of my comments.

  16. Damaris,
    It’s honesty like this that sometimes scares people. It threatens “the victorious life”. Well in my opinion, it is in fact the victorious life. Thanks Damaris.
    Chris

  17. Damaris,

    Thank you for this insightful sharing of honesty. I, too have had bad experiences with my own father, who constantly belittled me and abused me, outright hated me. I am sympathetic with those who have had an abusive father, and have problems addressing God as Father, when they automatically think of the monster who abused them. But then I am able to share that God is not that kind of Father. He is as the Psalms, especially Psalm 68, speak, that He is a Father to the fatherless. You don’t know how much that comforts me:

    Psalm 68:4-6Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

    4
    Sing to God! Sing praises to His name.
    Exalt Him who rides on the clouds —
    His name is Yahweh—and rejoice before Him.
    5
    God in His holy dwelling is
    a father of the fatherless
    and a champion of widows.
    6
    God provides homes for those who are deserted.
    He leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
    but the rebellious live in a scorched land.

  18. Dennisb says:

    Hi Damaris,

    Appreciate your honesty, desire to reach out & to listen with “ears that can hear”.

    Not sure if “forgiveness” is the right term, as that implies culpability on God’s part. Well I guess He is, but not in the sense we would understand. Even though I’m angry with God about quite a few things, & get depressed, I’ve never felt the need to “forgive” Him. I guess it’s because I try to view Him as transcendent & not relational in the way I use to view Him.

    In the end, He is Trinity & only relational through His Son I think. So if I’m supposed to be changed out of “my” image into HIs, part of that will involve experiencing life in a way that doesn’t make sense. I mean, He transcends it so in becoming like Him, we will need to go through some types of transcendence as well. Transcending would mean “rising above” our human conditions, in some ways.

    A reflection of this can be seen in monasticism. The path of “letting go”, giving up, father, mother, sister, brother, riches, passions, things that have the ability to drag one away from God. For those of us who don’t follow this vocation, it is still a pointer and a help. The reason is that in our state we have many “blind spots” & to progress in God, these need to be chiseled away. For some reason God intends to use suffering a lot of the time, to wake us up. I guess He would prefer us to be angry with Him & “alive” than enchanted by life and “comatose” toward Him.

    I’ve got a lot of things to be angry about. I grew up in a dysfunctional family, my brother was borderline schizophrenic, my father was a perfectionist, I went through many church disillusionments & was looking to the church to be my family. I got married late in life, I had a number of abusive bosses and I’ve got stuff-all friends.

    I also find it hard to turn to God as I am disappointed in Him. However, I try to focus on prayer & meditation, because in meditation, one learns to let go & lay these burdens on Jesus. I sit back & let God accept me as is & focus on something like the “Jesus Prayer”. This mindfulness, is a release that needs to be practised so that the “weeds” of this life don’t end up choking me. This is a strange way to relate to God, in stillness, in silence but this also reminds me of His transcendence. What we perceive isn’t the “full deal” because if it is, then we’ve been greatly “short changed”.

  19. Damaris,

    Thank you for baring your heart and soul and for asking questions that many would rather hide deep inside. I pray you continue to persevere and hold onto the three ingredients of your faith–grace, the Church and the Incarnation and that these things will help you to peace with God the Father.

    It is a sad truth that many see their relationship with God the Father as a reflection of their relationship with their earthly fathers. It took me years to realize, and it’s only been recently, that my picture of God the Father as a stern, wrathful god was a distorted picture of the God of the Bible and was a product of what I had learned in church and from pastors who themselves were stern and wrathful; it was certainly not what I had seen in my own father. It finally clicked for me while reading Matthew 7.

    “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” If my own dad was warm, supportive, patient, gracious and loving then how could God be anything less? Brennan Manning has also been a big influence in changing my perception of God.

    The change in my perception of God and the still dawning understanding of the depth of His grace is one of the major reasons I feel so at odds with my home church now. It is a church that still very much teaches an angry God along the lines of Jonathan Edwards. This is no longer the God I have come to know as revealed in Jesus Christ.

  20. Great post Demaris. For some reason it makes me think about Jesus’ parable regarding the prodigal son. Maybe I’m reading to much into it, but perhaps the returning son’s plan to beg a place as a servant in his father’s house was due to more than just shame and guilt. Maybe, though the son was seeking reconciliation with his father, there was still a part of him that wanted to keep a measured distance in their relationship. And maybe there was still some lingering emotional baggage left over from that earlier time when he was so eager to get out from under Daddy’s thumb. The role of a servant would allow him to maintain that emotional distance and, at the same time, salve his pride with a sense that he was paying off his debt.
    It’s interesting that the father didn’t say a word about forgiveness or anybody owing anybody anything. He just grabbed the boy up in a big bear hug and wept for joy. Maybe that’s what our first face-to-face meeting with our Creator is going to be like: all the emotional baggage and awkwardness and carefully constructed boundaries swept away in one big embrace.

  21. Some good thoughts and challenging words. I’ll be reflecting on this for some time.

    I can’t help but wonder, though, if a better way of putting it is that we are learning to trust God, rather than forgive Him. But I’m just not so sure. If I’m honest, I carry a TON of bitterness in my heart against God for things he has allowed to happen in my life, and in the lives of others I care about. I know where my culpability lies because of sin, and these are not those things. Or just frustrations generally. Or the lack of being able to overcome my own shortcomings and the seeming absence of his aid.

    These things produce a disabling sort of emotional deadness that prevents me from living at times, and drives me deeper into my work to avoid dealing with it. For the longest time I haven’t *felt* anything remotely resembling love for God. Though I don’t really trust feelings and therefore this tends to be a rather low priority concern for me, I do remember earlier times of innocence where I just felt so much more spiritually alive, and often wonder why I can’t ever seem to get back to that. It doesn’t trouble me in the sense of assuring me of His grace for me personally, but it does trouble me in the sense that I often feel like I’m missing out on the life he has for me.

    I carry many deep wounds, like most people, but I don’t think I’ve ever handled them well. Perhaps what I really need is not so much to “forgive God,” but rather, to receive forgiveness from Him, not necessarily just for my own sins, but over and above, in order that I have some to share with others. I think that if I could truly forgive others and forgive myself, I really wouldn’t be so bothered by God’s sins that much anymore. Pray for me.