The watercolor god
It was in the death of my ninety-eight-year-old great-grandmother that I really discovered the brevity of life. Because ninety-eight-years is long by anyone’s standard, but it wasn’t long enough. We still wanted her with us. She still fought for life. Life on this earth can’t be long enough to satisfy us. It can’t be exciting enough. It can’t be comfortable enough. It can’t fill the piece of us that longs for eternity and meaning and purpose.
Lord, I thought, we are dying inside because we don’t know You. And as clearly as I’ve sensed Him speak, in the silence of my heart, I felt Him whisper: No, you are dying because you think you do.
Track with me for a moment because this changed my whole perspective. It’s not that we don’t know the Lord that leaves us empty. It is the fact that we think we do. We think we have Him figured out, and in the depths of our hearts, we are dissatisfied with Him. When we know we don’t know Him, when we realize there are parts of Him we’ve yet to discover – that leads to hunger for a God we’ve not yet fully encountered. Most of us, though, think we know Him, and on some level, if we’re perfectly honest, the god we think we know just isn’t quite doing it for us.
Many of us grew up in the most well-meaning of Sunday Schools, where quaint pictures of a “mighty” god were painted in watercolors and pastels. God created a peaceful little world. It was humans that messed it up. We learned: Life was supposed to be pretty. Later Baby Moses was found in a river, and when he was grown, God told him to go and free His people from slavery. And Moses did. And a sea was parted. We learned: God used to be exciting. Then God gave the Ten Commandments, and the people got in big trouble when they disobeyed. We learned: God has rules and I must obey them to be “good.” But something in us tells us that we aren’t going to measure up. Then sweet little Baby Jesus who was the Son of God was born. And because He loved us so much, He was willing to die for our sins. If we will just ask Him, we can be forgiven and go to heaven. We learned: Jesus is for when I die.
We hung in there, trying really hard to love this feel-good god that held the little children and gently tended sheep. We really wanted to know and serve him, but we really weren’t sure what that meant. So we got burned out or bored, and if we were going to be really honest, in the depths of our hearts, we got a little disappointed by this god. Because we’d been told he was all we’d need, but he still left us longing, and we couldn’t for the life of us figure out what we were doing wrong. At that point, we either decided he was irrelevant or cruel or simply a god for someone else – someone more holy, more determined or more easily entertained.
The world then stepped in, happy to offer up an alternative to our cruel or irrelevant god. And we were grateful for their efforts. Maybe good deeds became our god. Maybe popularity. Maybe some cause. Maybe it was alcohol or boys or food. Maybe it was attention. Anything to feel. We don’t even have to feel that good; we just want to feel something. And these other gods don’t leave us any fuller than the first god we’d heard about, but these gods don’t carry such a promise that they leave unfulfilled. They are less demanding. These other gods are more honest. They don’t promise to fill our lives, they just promise to be a little better than nothing, and for the most part, they are.
I have been there. I have been disillusioned by a sweet god who was irrelevant to my life. I have been fearful of a god who seemed distant and cruel. I’ve been disappointed and angry with a god who left me empty. I’ve been longing for a god who is real and present and powerful.
But here’s the thing – I have caught a glimpse Him! Not all of Him, but enough of Him to know that there is always more. I don’t delude myself into thinking that I know Him completely anymore. I just realize that I want to! The God of the Bible has met me in the pages of Scripture, and He has come into my life. He is neither distant nor removed. He is not cruel. Neither is He overly-sweet so as to render Himself powerless. He spoke and the earth was formed. He breathed, and man lived. In Jesus, God Himself came and lived as flesh and blood. He ate fish; His pores seeped sweat and oil; His skin bruised purple when the hammer hit wrong.
He isn’t demanding, but I must warn you that when catch sight of the One True God, we might begin to realize He is worthy of it all. We might find ourselves unwilling to settle for less than Him, and we will find in this God, a passion for us that will not leave us unchanged. He loves us too much. He has too much planned. He has too much life to let us settle for anything less than abundance.
The Real God we will encounter is Creator and Master and Lord. He is Lover and Friend and Confidante. He is Provider and Father and Comforter. He is a Consuming Fire and a Strong Tower. He is Savior and Redeemer, and we will find that we desperately need Him to be each and all of these things.
In the story of the Bible, I pray we find more than knowledge, more than theory or history. In His story, we will find God revealing Himself in the lives of His people. I pray He opens our eyes to see it. Let's ask this very Real and Present God to introduce Himself to us as He really is.
We are here, Lord, and we are hungry. Come in power and strength. Be refreshingly honest and real. We want to know You as You really are!