One of the biggest experiences I’ve had in Christianity is God’s absence. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” While one can do this for a very long time, it puts the work on our shoulders for God to show up. It says that I have to do all the work. Reasons for him not showing up might be me not seeking hard enough, failing to have the right motives, having sin in my life, etc. These are all our responsibility. Why not a little reciprocation in this relationship? Maybe that’s too human an expectation in a divine-human relationship, but come on. Why doesn’t he “draw near” as in actually keep appearing in history, rather than consigning himself to occasional appearances a VERY long time ago, knowing full well that history gets muddied so easily?
Using an example from I forget where, if I hear my young child crying in the woods for 19 days and don’t reveal myself, I’d probably be considered a terrible parent. I mean, granted that it’s not a Vulcan rite of passage, I’d let my son know where he could find his family so he’d have security. No birthday cards, no letters, no phone calls, no tweets from the guy. Just words written back yonder. Even a violent revelation would at least show his person. I guess, to me, relationships take work, and there doesn’t seem to be much work going on on the other end. I’m finally asking him to go to counseling with me and he won’t give an answer. Even a “no” would be better than silence. Maybe I make too much out of these biblical metaphors- God’s people being God’s bride, sons, children. I cry out with Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Many people of God whisper, “How long, O, Lord, until your coming?” Sure, I guess God is considered sovereign, and so he gets to do what he wants. Why doesn’t he show up every once in awhile, though? He’s the king, right? He just feels like a deadbeat dad to me.
How about every 10 years, no every generation, he gives a state of the cosmos address like the American president does every year? This would let us all know how far we’ve deviated from him and clear up unnecessary diversity of opinion. Maybe rather than let his kids do all his talking for him, he could talk for himself. What are his purposes in staying hidden? Does it simply indicate his non-existence? Is he afraid of rejection? Would he get too annoyed with the questions?
Jesus told his disciples that it was good he went away so that his Spirit would be with everyone, that he would guide them into all truth. If this is so, why do we have so many voices for God which conflict with one another? No one can with full finality say, “Yah that guy or gal is speaking for God,” because we simply don’t know. We can say God’s revealed himself fully in Jesus Christ or the Bible or some revelation, but when it gets down to it, that makes things very sticky. Interpretation is involved in all things. A little time has elapsed since Jesus’ first came to the block. Much history has occurred, many languages have come and gone, many new and quite workable ideas have come since then. I mean, he’s been gone at sea so long, is it just time to say he’s dead and move on? It’s not like he has a captain sending him off to various parts of the universe against his will, so where is he? He’s omnipotent and omnipresent, right?
I don’t want to have to wrestle crumbs from the dogs (have my experience of God be mediated through history, literature, people, psychological experience, contrived worship settings). I want to eat at the table (unmediated experience, like Abraham, Jacob, Moses). Except he’s not at the table, in the room, in the house, on the block. He went to prepare a place for his people. How long does that take? The universe took six days. Does that just mean this will finally be the best of all possible worlds? Could he at least be a good carpenter and give us updates on our mansions? I don’t want the mansion, though. I just want to hear his voice, to know that he gives a rip. I’m like the kid with rich parents: I don’t want all the stuff they give just so they won’t have to hang out with me.
If anyone has any thoughts related to this, or you’d just like to say “hello,” leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
5 thoughts on “O Father, Where Art Thou?”
Wow, I appreciate your honesty and transparency. I’ve struggle with this same thing and wrote some thoughts on it… this particular poem comes to mind. http://withnoonebutme.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/you-see-him/
It’s not that he isn’t here. It’s that we can’t see him. I think our relationship with God is less what we can do and more what we can surrender.
I won’t say my name because some of the things I’ve thought about this subject are things I’m not willing to share with family, simply because they will then proceed to ask “deep, penetrating” questions that are in reality superfluous and patronizing. You know who I am, we went to the same school, graduated a year apart, and were roommates for a while.
As for the subject, I too struggled with this because I questioned why I ever went to our school in the first place. I initially went because I thought I was “called” to do this, which I later learned was total BS. I realized I did it because I felt I wanted to help my family. They were going through some rough times, of their own doing, in the years and months leading up to my decision to attend said school. I thought this was the right thing to do to try to “help” my family and so I went. I also was convinced from my church that God was near and listening, and that he approved of my decision and would “help” me (whatever that means) and “make a way” (again, huh?).
It didn’t help matters that they took the approach that they could continue to do whatever they wanted in life, but somehow could live their own righteousness through me, and therefore be justified in their decisions as long as their son and grandson was “doing something respectable.” In other words, they never objected to it, nor sat me down and said this might not be a good idea.
However, not being one to give up easily, I proceeded to stick with it, through all the student loan debt I incurred (final total was six figures) and all the frustration. In reality, it was a waste of time and did not even begin to achieve the goal I originally thought I should go for.
So, a few years later when I gave the bird to our organization and town, and left for greener pastures (and a job that I could do, be good at, and not be required to be married, but that’s a rant for another day), I was happy. I was relieved. I was finally doing something I wanted to do for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I take responsibility for the ultimate decision to go, as I made the choice and followed through. I don’t blame my family for not objecting; they simply had no prior reason to object. But, I asked the same question for a long time as you are asking now, Father, where are you? Why did you “call” me to go to a far away town, incur so much debt, only to not see the goals I thought would happen, happen? Why does it feel like I’m out here pushing, working my ass off for this organization, only to find that I cannot do what I thought I would do. Why do I feel like I’m left out here hanging by a thread?
I can accept the notion that I made a mistake and I do accept it. I made all those choices and stuck with them…but my anger and curiosity stems from the idea that if I was making a wrong decision, where was God to nudge me back to the right path? Because for years, I struggled with the idea that “Satan” was against me and that every time I faced difficulty, it was “Satan” trying to tempt me not to follow God’s will. Perhaps Christianity needs a better litmus test for understanding “God’s will” and helping its own to understand when God is truly guiding them to make a decision. I cannot go back to what I was in the early to mid 2000s.
My unknown friend, god’s will has been ridiculously hard for me to know without at least a lot of reservation. I used to tell people I knew what god had for my life, but that was more to hide the fact that I wasn’t sure of my path. I readily admit now that I was lost in search of something, only now to know that I love things that make a person no money without a professorship lol. And good luck for me on the demand picking up anytime soon. I’m glad you found something you’re good at, feel fulfilled in, and not have to be married, Greywolf :). For now, I’ve had to pick second best for a hope of giving my growing family some money to work with. I hate that kind of compromise because it’s not my first love (going into teaching high school history, though I’d rather be teaching religion and/or philosophy in a college context), but it will have to work. I applaud your efforts and success, also, in getting out of Dodge City. I’m almost there, if not already, except for the leaving town part. You have moved on in the best way possible in my book.
A great many people wonder this same thing. I’d love to talk with you about it sometime. And I have a book that you could borrow that would be very appropriate for this subject.
When are you down to hang out? What’s the book?