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God loves fools, drunks and me December 19, 2008

Posted by philangelus in religion.
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Over at Conversion Diary, this jumped out at me:

“Man lives on truth and on being loved: on being loved by the truth.”

This seemingly simple passage gave me a real jolt. It came from the fact that it immediately changed my perspective of the relationship with God on its head. We (I at least) are constantly so focused on our part in the relationship – Am I praying enough?, Am I praying correctly?, Am I doing enough?, Am I good enough?, Are my thoughts on God and his presence (or seeming lack)?, and so on.

About two years ago, I realized that while I was doing the above (working on my relationship with God) that I’d structured the whole relationship in such a way that there was no room left for God to love me. I talked about this before in my little self-forgiveness discussion. 

No one I spoke to understood what I was saying, that in the overall, I was so focused on “getting it right” that I never opened up enough to allow God to love me. There were other issues too that needed to be addressed (and trust me, my guardian angel addressed them, or rather forced me to address them) and over time, I was able to relax.

But I remember how I would tell someone, “I have been preventing God from loving me,” and every single person would respond, “That’s not possible.”

It is, of course. It’s possible to prevent God from loving me by framing myself as unlovable. If I position myself to God as “the person who does these things” then in my relationship with God I’ve put forward a pseudo-self and kept the real-self way down hidden. God can see it, but I’ve made it so God can’t relate to it.

That real-self is always very vulnerable, and the pseudo-self is so competent. See, we say: I pray, I fast, I tithe, I give to the poor, and I always wear my shirt on top and my pants on bottom. I’m pretty much unassailable.

Meanwhile, the real self, if we let it, would say, “Have mercy on me, O God, because I’m an idiot and incompetent, and I know you don’t really want me. You want the person I could have been.”

Two years ago, the answer I got was, “Actually, I’m not at all interested in the competent and unassailable person. Now, let’s talk about the incompetent idiot for a little while, because she’s very interesting to me.”

(Rough paraphrase.)

That was a very scary  month or two. I’ve recently revisited the same issues. They’re tough to handle. But I’m beginning to realize that what the guest blogger at Conversion Diary said is absolutely true, that our inner peace lies in being loved, and infinite inner peace lies in being loved by the Infinite.

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Comments»

1. blueraindrop - December 19, 2008

rephrasing it into allowing yourself to accept god’s love might get less of the impossible responses.

btw… in regards to terminator (google reader..), at least ya gotta give him points for thinking creatively!

2. philangelus - December 19, 2008

I really did revise that post last night not to publish, and it auto-published anyhow. I’m very sorry you got to see that.

Edited to add: this comment refers to BRD’s “terminator” reference which no one was supposed to have seen…

3. Cricket - December 19, 2008

I don’t see it as offensive at all. Revealing (or maybe not — I already knew you were an articulate, intelligent human who explores her faith, and, like the rest of us, finds gaps.)

I think God loves the competent and arrogant pseudo-self just as much as he loves the incompetent and self-deprecating inner-self, and everything in between. It’s an indivisible package.

God is omniscient. He can relate to the inner-self, no matter what walls you put up to protect yourself from failure.

It’s okay to be competent in some parts of life and incompetent in others. Rejoice in your skills and use them for good. Acknowledge your deficiencies and work to minimize their effects.

It’s not possible to prevent God from loving you. It is, however, possible to prevent yourself from feeling God’s love. I love my daughter, even when she is so upset with me that she won’t let me hug her.

My interpretation is that one side had gotten way too much of your attention, and the other was starving. A little CPR and proper nutrition and exercise, and eventually they’ll be balanced again, or, ideally, merged. Be grateful that you are competent, proud in making the most of it, and responsible in using it for good. It’s okay if one of your many sources of happiness is the good you do.

If the post was offensive at all, it was towards yourself.

4. philangelus - December 19, 2008

Sorry to be unclear, there were two posts. One of them should not have published, and I took it down as soon as I saw it. That’s the one my husband agreed might be construed as offensive (the Terminator reference blueraindrop made.)

This post is the replacement post and shouldn’t offend anyone. :-)

See, I do think it’s possible to actually have kept God at arm’s length. It’s always pushing Him away, and after a while that does preclude any kind of genuine relationship because the whole thing is transaction-based, contractual rather than covenantal.

I was having this issue on the other end with someone when I blurted out, “Don’t put conditions on what’s unconditional,” and I’m realizing that’s what I was doing with God too. I was putting conditions on what God gave unconditionally.

God: “I love you, Jane.”
Me: “Well, that’s nice, but first let me do this, do that, fix this, change that, and work on this other thing. Oh, and you wanted me to accomplish this and I haven’t finished that yet. And–””
:-)

5. Cricket - December 19, 2008

The instant my daughter stops punishing me for making her mad and lets me hug her, I’m there. She can only hold me off for so long, but I respect her wishes and reasons (even though they make no sense at all it just prolongs her misery). God’s been through all this a million times. He knows that forcing a hug on someone who isn’t ready will backfire. (I haven’t noticed him beginning to bake brownies so you can help Him, but I suspect He does something else.)

Sometimes I agonize over what I should do to make myself more palatable. (As opposed to trying to keep a gentle rein on my worst tendancies.) The best advice I’ve been given is to calm down about it. Rushing around, pushing myself in their faces and apologizing and trying to become someone they want to be around has the opposite effect. Giving myself space works much better.

It reminds me of learning to be a storyteller. New tellers often start by almost apologizing for telling. They speak quietly and stare at a space between themselves and the audience. Their voice is tight. They suspect they’re wasting our time. Then they work on the mechanics: enunciation, projection, story structure, characterization, improvisation, eye contact. Eventually, they realize the audience will enjoy whatever they offer. (Storytelling audiences are awesome.) Then they see someone who’s at the first stage, and realize the audience has to work to hear the new teller, so they begin to push the story on the audience, knowing that storytelling audiences are awesome. I spent a few years there and thought I was doing well. Then at the retreat I hit the next stage — sit back and invite the audience to share it with me while I tell it. I’m stalled between stages, but when it clicks, it’s incredible.

A relationship with God seems similar. “God, I’m a pathetic being, sorry for taking your time.” It evolves to, “That pathetic person next to me just doesn’t get that God loves him regardless,” and “He’ll love me however I am (right, God?)” Then we put more work into it, since that’s what good people do. Eventually (note I don’t say “finally”) we learn to answer the door and say, “I’ve just put on a pot of coffee. Come on in and share a moment with me.”

And I guess I’ve just proven that yes, you can hold Him off, or even push Him off by doing the things you thought would bring Him closer.

On the other hand, we need to learn and practise those things. The audience can’t join you in a story if they can’t hear it, or if the structure is wonky and you don’t understand the characters. In school, they don’t teach math and English at the same time, but eventually we do complicated word problems. In life, we can’t learn to do good deeds and to listen to God at the same time, either, but eventually we’re able to merge them.

6. blueraindrop - December 19, 2008

sorry for causing confusion by mentioning it… though, for the record, i thought it was very funny.. (its a google reader thing on the keep posts that have been deleted or unpublished or changed to draft already.. i dont think any of the other rss readers do that.. )

7. knit_tgz - December 21, 2008

You know, God’s been asking me, lately, to become vulnerable in front of Him. And I can’t. I am like the wife you describe in the other post. I am not really there, giving myself, because I am behind and under a layer of “properness”, of “this is how I should act”. He actually called my attention to Psalm 44, to the last verses: ” 23 Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
redeem us because of your unfailing love.”
(He called my attention to the Latin form, though ;) )

And this why? Because when I feel abandoned by Him, my first reaction is to let the brain take over. “Oh, but of course He did not abandon me. Please do not say such an offensive thing of the Lord”. The problem is, this is not a source of hope. I am still not sure why, but in those moments He _wants_ me to cry against Him “Father, why have You left me alone here bleeding? Have You forgotten me?” But even though Christ did that, I can’t. I can’t get _that_ naked. And He’s been asking this of me for a while…

But I read the dialogue on your other blog entry and recognize myself. Maybe that’s why I never commented on the other blog entry. Because that wife is me before Him.

8. Divine in-loveness « Seven angels, four kids, one family - January 8, 2009

[...] mentioned before how I had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the idea that God wanted some nebulous good for the Kingdom (and I could be spent like loose change whenever God wanted to, if the payoff was good enough.) At [...]


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