“Don’t preach to me. I’m done with God.”
This is something a friend said to me recently, and afterwards it really got me to thinking. At the time I remember my head said, “He’s not done with you, though,” yet the words that came out of my mouth were more subdued.
That is what I had said. To back down was easier than to engage, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the best answer. Thinking over the situation I realized my friend was done like a lot of people were done. It wasn’t so much that he was done with God, but rather that He was done with religion. I get it.
Religion, to me, is like book learning. I read all the material in nursing school. I even took notes. But I did not develop a love for the field until I entered into it hands on. I mean, I was intrigued by anatomy and physiology. The idea of healing made me happy. But it wasn’t until I saw the power of how my healing hands affected another human being that the field of nursing brought me joy. If I just looked at it as a paycheck, I’m sure I would have found something easier on my back with better hours long ago. Droves of nurses flee the bedside because the stress of the field is frustrating and overwhelming. Some of us stay because we’ve fallen in love with what we do. I think for much of the world, they’re easily burned out on religion. I get it.
My friend had asked me some questions about that angry God in the sky. I think the hellfire and damnation part was causing a great divide in his heart. He couldn’t understand how he could follow a Father who would let good friends of his not experience eternity in Heaven. I think he was kinda seeing God like the mean kid in high school who threw the best parties, but you only got invited if your parent’s bank account was up to par. I get it. Book learning will only teach you so much. Heart learning is the only way to get the right answers.
At the time I simply said, “I’m not the judge of who goes to heaven or hell. I leave that up to Him.” But I should have said more.
I should have admitted, “I don’t know all the answers, but I do know my Father.”
I know Jesus. And to know Him is to trust Him.
I don’t know why good people die young. I don’t know why my mother died at 54, or why a good friend of mine just died at 51. But I do know God is good. I didn’t just learn that by going to church, and not even just by taping some inspirational Bible verses on my bathroom mirror. I learned it by love.
I don’t know what happens when hurting, lost people die. I know what scriptures say about things like “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” and I believe that the only way to eternal life is through Jesus, but I don’t know what happens in the unseen. I don’t know what happens on a spiritual plain between here and there. But I know Him. I know He is love. I know He is forgiveness. I know He is the way.
I’m not a Biblical scholar, and I’m not an expert on the law. But I do know Grace. I know that it saves. I do know mercy, and I know the Father’s is abundant.
I think my friend, and a lot of people out there aren’t so much done with God as they are just getting started with Him. The beginning of any relationship can be rocky. The Holy Spirit calls us in. Our hearts are made to be filled with Him. But changing the way we live our lives? That will never come by memorizing scripture. It will come, though, by falling in love with the One who breathed those words into life. And that sweet Ruach, breath longs to blow off the pages into our lives.
This is hard to write. See, I don’t want to discount the truth of the words written in the Bible, but I do want to impress that they are more than just words we must adhere to. They are a doorway into a relationship, a happy home built into our hearts, and therein the answers are found. Without the relationship the words can be meaningless. I know many atheists who have read the Bible front to back. Without the love embossed on the pages, we lose sight of the author’s heart.
I don’t know all the answers to this broken world, but I do know the heart of the God who saved it. I found that the difficult questions of life no longer bothered me as much when I put my focus on the final answer to it all. Jesus. I remember a song I learned when I was young, based on scripture.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. And all these things will be added unto you.
It was true all along. To seek is to find, and to find is to know. To know isn’t to know all the answers, but it is to know that whatever the answer is, it is good. It is good because He is good. There are so many things we cannot understand, fathom, or explain, but we can get a little bit closer to the answers by knowing His heart. All I know is, my God is love, and He loves all His children. I will trust Him to sort it out and do things in a magnificently beautiful way. A way that upends religion, much like He upended those tables.
I said before that I didn’t think my friend was so much done with God, but rather he hadn’t got good and started yet. What I’m saying is, you can go to church every Sunday and listen to the entire sermon, but until you spend time alone with Jesus, talking to Him, reading His words, and asking Him to speak the truth of those words through His Holy Spirit into your heart, you’re gonna get tripped up on the details. You’re gonna think the Judge in the sky is angry over your sins, and you’ll forget the Savior who said, “forgive them, Father, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Even as they tortured and killed Him! He spilled His blood for the crowds that yelled “crucify Him,” and until you know that Jesus like a best friend, you’re going to be done too.
Religion will make you say grace before a meal, but relationship will have you give away your last bit of food. Like any relationship, that is cultivated by time together, a love life with Jesus will change your perspective of who He is.
You won’t say, “how can God do this to me!”
You’ll pray, “Jesus, help me through this. I don’t know what you’re doing through this, but I know it must be for my good.”
God loves us too much to be a big, mean kid with a magnifying glass burning ants on the sidewalk. But the only way to see Him as He intends is to get to know Him. I should have told my friend when he asked me tough questions, “my Father, the Dad I know, He isn’t looking down from the clouds with a menacing grin while He throws people in a fire pit.”
If that’s who you think God is, then I would encourage you to dive a little deeper. Get to know Him, and then all the hard questions will have the same easy answer. Realize you’re not done; you never really got started. And He is certainly nowhere near completed with us.