I sat in church yesterday morning, my body in the pew but my thoughts with you. Dan spoke on the omnipotence of God: God’s unlimited, eternal power. God cannot be thwarted. God is supreme. I thought of you on a hospital gurney, sick with detox, tossing and turning under florescent lights. I searched for the sovereignty of God.
I don’t know why if He is all loving and all-powerful bad things still happen. I don’t know why 18,000 people died yesterday simply because they didn’t have enough food. What I’m really saying is, I don’t know how I have it so good when some people have it so bad. My theology gets broken down for what it is: Survivors guilt.
I didn’t earn my way into God’s family. All is gift; all is grace. I didn’t make ‘better choices’ than you. I wasn’t luckier. I was chosen. And if God is all-powerful, who can resist Him? I hold my head in my hands and ask, how can you resist Him? How do you battle your demons day after day? How do you silence them when I can’t silence mine? And I sat in that pew yesterday wondering, praying, begging: Aren’t you chosen too?
As Dan wrapped up his sermon, he said, “Does anyone have any doubts on this?” Any doubts? On the goodness of an all-powerful God in a broken and tormented world? My hand shot up in the air. I held it as high as it would go. The room grew silent. Dan’s eyes scanned the silent room, searching, but mine was the only hand that was up. Then he locked eyes with me across the room and said, “Well. We have one honest person.”
Isn’t that what they taught us in Al-Anon? That darkness breeds addiction? That lying makes us hide? Didn’t they tell us to be truth-tellers, to bring it to the light? Didn’t they tell us that shame is mirage?
My truth is that I don’t know. I have doubts. I don’t know why God seems to choose some and not others. I don’t know why all are called but only some can hear. I don’t know why I can listen to His voice and can feel His presence and love and others can’t or won’t or don’t. Sometimes my hand is the only one that is up. But my cheeks won’t flame hot and I’m not ashamed, because even though I don’t know much I do know this:
Jesus loves the doubter.
I know I am loved within my doubt and I am reminded again that the answer to every question is love. I feel secure in questioning God and His motives because the answer to all my questions is always His love.
Sometimes I feel like we are divided by a fence, me on one side, and you on the other. We are sorted and filed by affiliations and ballot choices. I’m cool if I believe in God, or god or gods. Or Buddha or free love or recycling. But when I throw all my cards into the Jesus basket, I become other. And when you don’t, you become other. Jesus becomes the fence. But those aren’t His words. He said, “I am the gate.”
When I think of us I think of my own kids. As my body made room for theirs, I was allowed to be a part of their creation. I helped to grow and nurture them; eating organic kale and taking inhumanely sized prenatal vitamins. I avoided hot tubs, I refused alcohol, I held my breath while they searched for a heartbeat.
Do I love them more than God loves us? Is He less tender in His creation, less involved in the weaving and spinning in the womb and of the soul? If His ways are higher than our ways then He must be to an exponential degree more loving, in fact Most Loving. Most Tender, Most Involved, Most Fiercely Protective. Isn’t that at the heart of omnipotence- that He is unlimited, that He is everything in its most supreme form? If we posses even a small portion of goodness, He must be the fulfillment of it. Love for us is a noun or a verb; to Him it is a personality trait.
So then would God in his ‘capital L’ Love for us, create us, love us, breathe us into existence just to throw us out like yesterdays trash? Could He doom to destruction that which He has loved and cradled and conceived of? Could He pick me up and cast you off? Does our very existence not proclaim His love loudly the way the mere existence of my children proclaims my love and desire for and acceptance of them?
And if I was on one side of a fence and they were on the other is there anything I would not do to get to them on the other side? Would I not claw and tear down and rip apart? Would I hold back? Would I not shred the fence to pieces? Wouldn’t I even give my own life? And so I see Jesus no more as a fence to divide, but a gate to get in. The fence is our brokenness, our addictions, our sickness, our secrets. It divides us from God’s love. The shame tells us to hide and the darkness forms the chain links.
So then God’s omnipotence becomes both the question and the answer. It is His power that makes me question His goodness and it is His power that is strong enough to save me. It is God’s strength that can break every chain. That power that makes me so uncomfortable is the very thing that sets me free.
The first time you went into rehab we all sat in a circle with letters. We read our letters out loud. Mine shook in my sweaty hands as I choked and swallowed my written words. I was instructed to end the letter with what I wanted; what I wanted you to do. That’s what the lady on the intervention tapes said: Tell the addict what you want them to do. I listened to her seasoned voice come to me over my car speakers. I drove slow on icy roads, the tires crunching on ice, every turn of the snow caked wheels taking me farther from my dorm room and closer to you. My mind fixated, my attention riveted on this detail, on what I want for you.
So I sat on a folding chair in a basement and read my rehearsed plea. I remember how your eyes stayed on the floor when everyone else read their letters, but your eyes bored into me when I read mine. I remember thinking that maybe that meant you were really paying attention to mine which was a shame because I really had no idea then what I wanted for you. I only knew that I loved you and I was scared and that I wanted you better. But I know now. This is my encore letter and these are my choking words: What I want more than anything for you is to give up trying so hard to do this on your own. There are no awards at the end of this life for going it on your own. There are no merit badges for gritting your teeth and earning your way. There are no winners and losers. There are only those who think they are healthy and those who know they are sick.
I want you to know how deeply accepted you are where you are. I want you to accept the forgiveness freely offered. I want you to know what its like to take off your baggage and lay it down, and walk away for good. I want you to know freedom. I want you to know forgiveness. I want you to know that you are beloved. I want you to enter green wide-open pasture and find rest for your soul. I want you to walk through the gate.