Thursday, September 22, 2005

21. Out of the Mouths of Babes

Yesterday I was babysitting two of my favourite kids and we watched this movie called The Miracle Maker.  It’s basically a claymation (with a bit of animation) telling of the story of Jesus.  It was interesting watching it with these kids whose parents have both, at one time or another, been pastors at my church.  They anticipated pretty much everything (except for Mary Magdalene’s demon possession, which scared one of the kids, but I didn’t know that until her dad came home and she started crying… kids can be weird that way), and were explaining the lessons we can learn from the stories as they came along.  

We get to the part about the temptation of Christ – specifically the part where Satan tempted Christ to throw himself off of a building so that the angels would catch him – and the little girl got a bit confused and started asking what was going on.  I started to explain, but the 8 year old boy jumped in and said “He’s asking Jesus to try and prove God is good, instead of just believing it.  We are not supposed to test God.”

I turned and stared at him – not that he noticed, he was too busy strategizing how he was going to cream me at Risk – it’s not that I haven’t heard that before, it’s just that I hadn’t heard it so clearly before.  I know we are not supposed to test God; I had just not really thought about what that means… or made the connection between this passage and my life.

How many times did I pray and ask God to prove He loved me and that He was good by making me straight?  

Or ask Him to prove His goodness by explaining His rules to me?

So I’ve been thinking about what it means to have the ‘faith of a child’… does it means to accept at face value the statements God has made about His character?  Children believe what you say, no matter the evidence to the contrary.  I think about all the times, as a child, when my dad would tell me he was going to call, or come visit, and I would believe him – no matter how many times he broke his promises, I would believe him (and, if I’m completely honest, I still do that with him… I really should know better by now).  I don’t mean that to say that this is what my relationship with God is supposed to be like, just to point out the absolute faith I had as a child.

Now, I’m going to stray into some possible heresy here… but we grow out of that blind faith for a reason.  In order to be able to fend for ourselves, we need to be able to test things.  We take cars for test drives, we get building inspectors to look at new houses before we buy them… we learn how to test things – and people – so we can see who and what we can and cannot trust.  These are necessary survival skills.  But we are not supposed to apply them to our relationship with God?  That seems impossible to me.  

I know that in comparison to God I will never be more than a child – and I like the idea of being His child that he cares for and looks after.  But it is hard not to question His goodness when I am faced with what, at worst, looks like cruelty, and at best looks like randomness.  Hurricane Katrina… the Tsunami… both very random, and both within the realm of God’s creation and control… and of course, there are countless other examples.

But of course, this is my blog, and this is all about me, so let’s get self-centered for a moment.  I’m gay… and whether or not it’s genetic, or the result of events in my childhood; it’s something I have had no control over.  It’s something random that happened to me.  I can control my behavior, but I cannot control who I am attracted to, who I fall in love with.  And the arbitrariness of the apparent rule against any expression of that part of me bothers me – to put it mildly (again, let me reassert that I am still thinking about this, I’m not sure if such a rule exists).  It seems cruel, and kind of thoughtless – and those are not characteristics that I want in a God I worship.  

And yes, I’ve read the arguments about gender complimentarity, and… well… I guess I’ve just seen too many heterosexual relationships that were not good because there was no real complimentarity, and I’ve seen gay relationships where there was wonderful complimentarity – one of the most balanced relationships I know of is the one I mentioned before, between one of my best friends and her girlfriend.  They just compliment each other so well.  The argument will go on to say that there is no complimentarity between people of the same gender physically… but is the physical aspect the only important and relevant part of a relationship?  Not to mention the fact that I’m not even sure I buy that this argument is based in Scripture… it seems more like psychobabble to me.  

Anyway, the point is that despite all of this, I am called to trust in the goodness of God.  I am not to test Him.  Is that what I’m doing now?  I don’t think so… I don’t think asking questions is testing Him… but I am to trust in His goodness in the midst of all of this.  This is so hard, and I don’t know if I can do it.


Christinewjc said...

Hello JJ,

My blog friend Jojo shared a link to your blog and your recent post asked several important questions about faith, so I decided to come over here and comment.

You stated:

"Anyway, the point is that despite all of this, I am called to trust in the goodness of God. I am not to test Him. Is that what I’m doing now? I don’t think so… I don’t think asking questions is testing Him… but I am to trust in His goodness in the midst of all of this. This is so hard, and I don’t know if I can do it."

I don't think that questioning God is the same as testing Him. Recall how lovingly Jesus treated "doubting Thomas" in John 20?

John 20:24-29 (NLT)
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin*), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he replied, "I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side."
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. He said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!"
28 "My Lord and my God!" Thomas exclaimed.
29 Then Jesus told him, "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway."

Notice that Thomas had to wait 8 days for the Lord to re-appear to the disciples who had already seen him, but it was the first time for Thomas. There are many lessons to be learned through this encounter.

Some are given what they need in order to believe (e.g. Thomas), while others who may not have seen, but believe anyway (all born-again Christians since the Resurrection), are blessed by God. What do you think is the message being conveyed here?

That little 8 year old boy showed much learned biblical wisdom that he was obviously taught by his parents and/or church teachers. The Bible is our source for godly wisdom. The example of satan trying to influence Jesus to do something that satan wanted Him to do is an example of using evil to test God, not an example of questioning. There is a huge difference.

With so many people questioning God in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina (and now, Rita!), I wrote an answer to another person's question which asked, "Are bad things from God?"

I thought that this response was really good: (Note: bracketed parts added by me for clarification)

"Is it possible that God allows things that we consider “bad” to happen in our lives so we will acknowledge Him? His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Could His infinite love and wisdom actually allow painful or even disastrous things to happen in our lives, because He is seeking our attention? God’s love is greater than we can possibly imagine.

So often we “reason” God’s will is not for us to be sick, lose a job or experience disappointments or difficulties in life. God [allows]everything that happens in creation. [Despite the "Fall" and sin] He is in control and all things are working toward His purpose and His design. We are not on our own [if we are born again]believe. Jesus said He would never leave us and He never does. Be still and know that He is God."

Here is my reply. Perhaps something within this reply will speak to your heart.

Life is a test. Among the most important "tests" is learning the truth about God as has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ and God's Word, the Bible. These tests include our faithfulness, hopefulness, love, trust, perseverance, longsuffering and all the rest of the "fruits of the Spirit".

God does allow perceived bad things to happen in our lives. Sometimes we may never know the reason why. But He is in the business of redeeming us and sanctifying us (a life-long process) and "working things out for good" in our lives.

We can look at Job and all that he went through to see that God allows bad things to happen. But it's not to "torture" us (as some of my atheist/agnostic debaters often claim); it is to get us to acknowledge and turn to Him. Job had all of those awful things happen to him and his family, yet he refused to curse the Lord as so many friends (and his wife) were telling him to do. This teaches us a very valuable lesson.

We can each think of events and circumstances in our own individual lives where we can choose to be like Job's friends and wife; or, choose to be faithful to the Lord no matter what happens in this life. Granted, it may be easy to say but it can, admittedly, be difficult to do.

Thinking of times and situations in my life where the "whys" were never completely answered point out such difficulty. But with trust and faith in Jesus Christ, what he did for us at the cross, and the promises he gave to us, can be seen to far outweigh any notion of "why" that hasn't been answered.

If we don't know "why" in this life, we can trust to know all the "whys" when we are in His Kingdom forever. That's faith! Faith to trust even when we don't know all the "whys".

Scripture tells us, "Without faith, it is impossible to please God."

Notice it doesn't say, for example, "without knowing the "why" of everything" it is impossible to please God. Notice, also, that if we actually KNEW the "why" of everything, we wouldn't need faith! Genuine faith requires the ingredient of trust!

Job trusted God no matter what he went through in his physical life here on earth. Oh, to have the faith, trust and patience of Job! Something to certainly strive for!

JJ, I pray that you know that God loves you SO MUCH and he sees the struggles, questions and doubts you are encountering in your life. I need to ask you, are you born again in Jesus Christ? If not, please read John 3 and we can discuss it together here on this blog or at mine.

Love in the Lord,

Anonymous said...

So, christinewjc... all of us gays (10 % of the population and counting) were made so in order that we should seek God?

What an extraordinary idea... He forbids me loving and cherishing another human being as a loving partner so that we should seek Him.

I feel very sad and afraid when I read this kind of reasoning.

I reminds me of a couple I knew... she would feed him very fattening foods and obstruct his plans to excrecise, so that he would not be attractive to other women.

Frankly, cristinewjc, it is very hard for me to come to terms with your understanding of a loving God.

JTB said...

Just found your blog through Feminary.

I think the questions you ask in this post are the same ones I was trying to articulate here: So here is a shameless plug for my own little blog, I guess.