Friday, April 4, 2014

Expected Repentence

So after you throw a shit fit and scream at God you know the next step right?  The next step, assuming people don't jump down your throat immediately is that you repent.

You say you're sorry.  Apologize to God and anyone who heard your fit.  You return to your previously held belief system and you get in line.

Except when you don't.  Because you can't.  Because the wounds are too fresh and constantly ripped open.  Because while you hugged your kids extra tightly tonight you still felt that ache in your heart.  The ache that says maybe all this time you've been wrong.  Nietzsche wasn't right either, God's not dead.  But this God that you've worshiped for 30 odd years, he's not tenable to you any longer.

I have great friends.  Including one who laughed at the fact that I'm going through this while in seminary.  He clearly has a lot more faith that God's going to come out of this still in relationship with me than I do.  Other friends have pushed me intellectually asking hard questions.  Another has suggested that perhaps I direct my wrath at Satan.

While all of these things have been interesting none particularly helpful.  Two things have been helpful so far hearing someone say, you are not the only person in this conversation who has ever hated God.  And seeing someone tear up when they talked about their own dark night of the soul.

Neither of those things heal my hurt.  Neither of them took away my anger toward God.  Redirecting it at Satan isn't working for me, at all. He's evil and I expect him to do evil to me.  But I thought for a moment that maybe at least I'm not alone.  Maybe there is company among these bruised and battered saints?

Maybe this weird combination of a raging Peter and doubting Thomas that I'm wearing right now is a coat that others have worn too.  And if that's true well maybe there's a way out.  A way out that has integrity to it.  Because I refuse to fake my way out of this.

Some have suggested that I appeal to a small God, I confess I have no idea what that means.  I don't know how to 'make' God bigger or smaller in my head.  Some have said doubt is normal.  Others have said they are proud of my honesty, because for so long they have wanted to say what they thought about God, but they were afraid to.

There is a problem with human suffering and how we interact with God.  Some people sail through this life without ever having to reconcile this problem and others, the unlucky of us, have to reconcile this problem every 5 or 10 years.  What do you do with a God who says he loves you when you are in intense and unrelenting pain?  If you go through suffering that is real, intense and palpable you must must must solve this problem.  If you don't reconcile this you end up settling for atheism, agnosticism or a totally insincere relationship with this creator who you claim to worship but don't actually.  I can't stomach an insincere relationship with God.

I have found one biblical companion in Job.  I have never been so in love with a biblical character (sorry Jesus but Job and I, we're one and the same).  I can hear him standing and screaming.  I can see the torrent of words flowing out of his mouth.  This guy I can identify with.  He's my guy.  I even can relate in the beginning of the book to Satan seemingly walking into the door to heaven and asking to curse Job, I sort of believe that's what could have happened in my case.  Perhaps slightly like Job I am aware that God's answer could very well be that he created everything.  He has the right to do as he pleases.  Although I find less satisfaction that Job did in that answer but then again I haven't had to stand before God as he said it yet either.

Job's friends have an answer for his suffering, it's a similar answer to why some of my more devout friends would say I'm suffering. "Job is suffering so much because he has sinned so much... with each friend's speech, of the anger of (Job at them for) applying this misguided theology to anyone who suffers)." (Dorsey 1999, 168).  Like Job when I hear this answer I often think, that theology seems a little off.  Why would we tell those in pain that it's their fault?  I remember someone once saying that children died because their parents had sinned.  My family walked out of that church service, I'm quite sure my sister wasn't lying dead in the cold hard earth because of anything my parents did.  Perhaps my approach is a little different than Job's because I don't tend to direct my torrent of words back toward my friends obliterating their shitty theology;  it's tempting but they're not really the object of my anger so I just walk away.

People like Elihu in the book of Job want me to shut up, stop saying all of these awful heretical things I believe about God but if you look at the book of Job biblical scholars will tell you "It is Job's speeches that the author wants the audience to hear, for they exemplify how a truly righteous person responds (with qualities such as integrity, honesty about one's feelings, etc.) to suffering, heartbreak, false accusations, confusion, and apparent abandonment by God himself" (Dorsey 1999, 168).  This is worthy of note because that means whoever wrote this book wanted us to know it's ok to be really pissed off at God.  I am a far less righteous person then Job, but it helps me to know that he was not an Israelite.  He wasn't one of the chosen.  I may be more of a sinner but at least he didn't have the exalted status of also being a Jew.  He was just a regular guy who really loved and tried to follow God.  I feel like I can identify with that.  Except I'm not a guy and I feel equally as screwed with as Job did, and I would say we both feel that way for good reason!

Job's words could be mine:
"I have no peace, no quietness.  I have no rest; only trouble comes" (Job 3:26 [NLT]).  Always, new trouble every day.  New questions I can't answer for my children.  New mountains for me to climb as the sole provider for this family.  New trouble every day.  It gets old.  It's beyond old.  I'm tired.

"If my misery could be weighed and my troubles be put on the scales, they would outweigh all the sands of the sea" (Job 6:2 [NLT]).  Yep.

"Teach me, and I will keep quiet. Show me what I have done wrong.  Honest words can be painful but what do your criticisms amount to? Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my cry of desperation?" (Job 6:24-25 [NLT]).  Like Job I want an answer.  Please just show me.  Show me what the heck is the stinking plan here?  What is going on?  I promise given some compassionate understanding I will shut up!  Tell me what I did to deserve this, I will repent.  I don't understand!

"Lying in bed, I think, 'When will it be morning?' But the night drags on, and I toss till dawn" (Job 7:4 [NLT]).  It's very quiet from 1 - 3 in the morning and time moves at a relentlessly slow pace.

The edges of my anger are changing.  I feel a slight softening on the out rim like instead dark black night that inhabited everything there's a gray rim now.  I'll talk to God about other people, like a true hypocrite, I'm willing to believe that he may care about others even if he doesn't about me.  And I'm desperately hoping he does care for my loved ones.  But he has a history of not really listening to me so if you're asking me to pray for you, I might go elsewhere if I were you.

I will not produce the Expected Repentance.  I am waiting for a real one.  If that doesn't come then well I'll have no answer for you.  God eventually shows up at the end of the book of Job, he restores his fortunes and gives him a new family.  That's all fine well and good, but time is ticking on and I haven't seen or heard from him.

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