Last week I sent a text message to an old friend. My friend is one of the pastors at a rather large church that has services streaming on their website. After watching one of the worship services of that church, I shot my friend a text complimenting on how good the service was. When I received a quick reply, I began chatting and asking how things were- in the way friends do when catching up. From then on, all I received were generic responses like: “Working hard” and “Doing well.”
I wanted to text back, “You don’t know who this is, do you?”
I have to admit that I regularly feel this same sentiment when it comes to my relationship with God. This is especially true when I pray. I feel like my prayer life consists of reciting the same prayers day after day and I want to ask God, “You don’t know who this is, do you?” That question doesn’t come out a feeling that I’m somebody that God has to pay attention to, as if I’m somebody that is demanding God’s attention. Rather it comes from a feeling of disappointment. It’s similar to the feeling of when you meet someone at a party or a social event only to see them later and, while you remember who they are, they have no idea who you are. There’s a feeling of disappointment that comes because somehow you feel you aren’t worth being remembered.
Lately when I try to interact with God, it feels like I’m texting someone who doesn’t know who I am or I’ve run into someone I met at a party who doesn’t remember talking to me. Intellectually and theologically, I know God knows who I am, I know God knows my situations and I know God is in control and moving me closer to being conformed to the image of Jesus but practically, honestly, truthfully, I feel disconnected.
I’ve written several times about the journey within a “dark night of the soul” (to quote St. John of the Cross) and how it’s made me doubt some things about God, rethink some things about God and explore some things about God. Every time I’ve worked through that process I have found myself wanting to know God in a fuller way but each time I’ve found that way elusive. It’s like trying to capture evidence of the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot; whatever equipment you use and however enthusiastically you search, the smoking gun that proves their existence always proves to be elusive.
Maybe that analogy is, in fact, part of the problem. I want God to give me the proverbial smoking gun that suddenly takes what’s out of focus and makes it clear. I want God to answer every question, satisfy every concern and give some validation or explanation for the ups and downs of life. I want God to say, “Yes, I know who you are” but maybe God wants to say, “Yes, now you’re who you’re supposed to be.”
Those are two very different replies to the question I’ve been asking. Truthfully, the second reply is much scarier because being is always harder and complicated than doing. Being involves a journey, testing, changing and not knowing exactly where we will end up. Being means that there is no easy answers, even if we desperately want an easy answer.
I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ [so that] I may know Him.” For Paul, none of the accomplishments of his life, all his doing, helped him know Jesus any better. It was only when God took him on a journey of being that he was able to find the God that was elusive before.
I still want God to remember me. I still want God to give some answers, clarity and explanation. But more than that I want God to make me into who I’m supposed to be, so that I, like Paul, can know Him. At the very least, I want to want that.