The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Four years ago I started praying to be closer to God. I began to long for Him to reveal Himself to me, to grow in knowledge and understanding of Him. I prayed, I waited, I kept an always watchful eye for my burning bush, I kept an always open ear for His thundering voice from heaven. For weeks my prayers were only answered by silence. Finally, one day while grumbling and whining to God about how hard I was trying, and how could He expect me to stay faithful when all I got from Him was silence, and why did He make it so hard for us to follow Him, blah, blah, blah, a thought gently, but authoritatively invaded my mind and said, “Start by reading what I’ve already revealed to you.”

I was floored.

It was so simple and so obvious, yet so completely outside the realm of what I had been expecting. His answer was there all along, I had simply drowned out His voice by my own expectations, none of which included for me to simply pick up my Bible and start reading. You know,…. the whole thing.

As I read the Bible, one thing began to become obviously apparent. The god I had always envisioned in my own mind, was not the God of the Bible. Make no mistake, I was saved as a teenager, I had been baptized and had considered myself a Christian my whole life. However, all that time I had a very lopsided view of God. He was the God of grace, the God of infinite love, the God that forgave my sins, the God that understood my weaknesses. He was the God that fit neatly into my own personal reality.

Sometimes God is more of a concept to us, rather than someone we get on our knees and interact with for a set-apart amount of time on a daily basis. Almost everything I knew about God was what I had learned from others because I had never made an effort to read the whole Bible. I was comfortable in my Christianity, so I had never actually gotten around to seeking Him with my whole heart. I was still living my life the way I wanted to live it, spending my time the way I wanted to spend it, making no real sacrifices for my faith. The blunt reality was, all those years I had simply been a lukewarm Christian who never made the effort to read or study the revelation given to me by the God I claimed to worship and follow–the Bible. You don’t have to read the Bible to be saved, but you do have to read the Bible if you want to truly know and understand God and maintain any sort of spiritual growth.  The blunt reality was, I claimed to worship Someone I really didn’t know or understand.  And if I tell the whole truth of the matter, I claimed to “worship” God, yet unbeknownst to me, I really had no idea what real worship was.

When I read the whole Bible, I was forced to reconcile the god I had always imagined versus the real, actual God that I claimed to worship and follow. I had been a Christian all my life, but yet I found myself at 37 years-old asking myself, “Can I worship this God?”

–Can I worship this God Who instructed Saul, “Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (1 Sam 15:3).
–Can I worship this God Who instructed Israel, You are not to leave even one person alive in the cities of these nations that the Lord your God is about to give you as an inheritance.” (Deut 20:16).
–Can I worship a God Who would allow wayward Israel to reap what they had sown through their rebellion and sinfulness, even when it meant eating their own children, You will eat your children, the flesh of your sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you during the siege and hardship your enemy imposes on you… the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.” (Deut 28:53-57).

So many of us think we know God, but in reality we only know the version of Him we’ve made up in our own mind. The god in our mind feels so real, so familiar, but it is really only our own self delusion. You will know that you are worshiping the god of your own mind when he neatly fits within the paradigms of your own understanding. When nothing about him contradicts the way you choose to live your life. When he requires you to make no changes within yourself or your lifestyle. When he could actually be a she, because it doesn’t really matter whether God expresses Himself as male or female, right? For so many who claim to be God’s people, God is whatever they want Him to be. Which means that when we control our own understanding of God and how He expresses Himself, He is no longer God because we have replaced His authority with our own.

I had earnestly asked God to reveal Himself to me, and His answer brought me to a place of decision, a fork in the road of my faith– “Can I worship God as He truly is….the God of infinite grace, terrifying judgment and eternal consequences? Can I worship a God that requires me to forsake the world and die to myself?” I had to ask myself this because when I became a Christian, I accepted Jesus as my Savior but never really understood what it meant for Him to also be Lord of my life. I had to ask myself this because grew up in a nation that worships their own version of God. I grew up in a nation that romanticizes relationships– we want all the lovely parts but are quick to bail out when we get to the ugly ones. We want all ups and no downs. We want to stay in the honeymoon phase.

The problem is, that the honeymoon phase won’t carry us through trials, challenges, tribulation and suffering. Only a real relationship with a solid commitment, not based on fleeting emotions or flawed assumptions, can withstand the brutal storms of this life. And when you are in a real relationship with someone, you know that person intimately and you love them wholly and completely, the lovely and the ugly. You love them at their best and you love them still, at their worst. When you are in a real relationship with a solid commitment, you are in it for the long haul, you have made up your mind, you have set your face like flint, and nothing stands a chance of coming in between you and the one you love. You have counted the cost, and still consider it a worthy investment.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and count the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish’…In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:28-33)

“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13)

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” (1 Chron 28:9)

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and in his joy he went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of the heavens is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matt 13:44-46)