God isn’t always soft. Love isn’t always warm and fuzzy. Grace isn’t always gracious.
I have had my disputes with the Father. I doubted the Bible first, then Christianity, then God as a divine entity. I went on to skeptically examine “gods” as a reasonable philosophical premise. On studying, I made my way all the way back through the same mental and spiritual gauntlet. (labo & Christus)
But that does not mean all my issues were, or are, resolved. When Dad died, an anger began smoldering. (amicus) At first I didn’t know where it was directed or that it was even there, and then M pointed it out and I learned to objectively analyze it through my vocabulary. I thought I released it, but it was deeper and more persistent than I was admitting. I was angry with God. (jireh)
When you hold a bitter grudge against someone it’s not always a flame – it’s often just an ember glowing in the back of the fireplace – waiting for the smallest draft to bring it to life. That is why this grudge is not in all stories, because it was usually just a glow that became comfortable. But it finally became a large enough flame that God put it out.
I was at the office working on an appellate brief and decided to spend my lunch time at the church, in the sanctuary. This was not uncommon then, because I had so many questions for God. I would often go to my church’s sanctuary in the middle of the day, when no one would be there but God and me, and pray. As I think I’ve said before, Dad taught me to listen when I pray, and I did. I don’t always hear anything, and I don’t always like what I hear when I do hear something.
On this particular day, He spoke. Sternly. I was sitting in a pew about midway up the aisle and I asked my question. Silence at first. I don’t even remember anything about the question, and it’s not important. God often has different things on His holy mind than I have on my carnal mind. That’s a good reason to shut up and listen.
God: Get on your knees if you’re going to pray to me.
Dummy: I really don’t want to do that – could you just give me what I’m looking for and let me move on?
- Get on your knees.
- Come on God, if someone comes in they will think I’m just doing it for show…
- So you’re not going to help me? You’re just going to insist on a physical posture?
- Ok, well I’m not doing this – I’m going back to work
I walked out, started my truck and began the drive back to the office. I decided to stop at the corner store for snack food to eat while working, but the same voice directed me to pass up the corner store. I became concerned that He was still present. I obeyed and drove on, and just before I was to turn into my office parking lot, the voice – unwelcome at this point – insisted I drive straight on. This was disconcerting, as this road would lead to the cemetery. I hadn’t been there for the several years since we lowered Dad’s coffin into the watery hole, and I didn’t want to go back there. But I drove as directed.
I no longer entertained doubts about His existence, or even His Lordship, but that didn’t mean I liked or understood his style. But respect and obedience? Yes.
By the time I pulled into the cemetery, the whole death was as fresh as March of 1997, and I was responding to it as I did then. I stopped at the edge of the road closest to the graves of Dad and my Grandfather.
God – Get out, and stand at the foot of the grave.
Dummy – NO! I can’t do this. Why? There’s nothing here!
- I want you to stand at the foot of the grave and thank me, out loud.
- THANK YOU!?
- Thank me for his death.
- (through my waterfall) Even if I was thankful for this, why would I say it out loud for someone passing by to hear?
- Why can’t you obey me? Am I your Lord or not?
- You killed him!
- Trust me.
I stood at the foot of Dad’s grave and in broken, sobbing speech, said out loud:
- Thank you God for taking Dad.
I felt anger washing off me like mud off a jeep. I have never before, and never since felt that – to that degree anyway. I was surprised not to see anything on the ground. I felt lighter.
- I AM. I am your dad. It was time for him to go and it was time for you to begin looking straight to me for guidance. Not him. I am your dad now. I want you to be a son to me. There should be nothing between us.
- So he’s gone so that you can be closer to me, because you love me?
- That’s one reason. Don’t think its all about you, but yes. I love you and I’m pulling you. Stop resisting and fighting me, and I will use you and bless you. But you absolutely must accept your correct position with Me if we’re going to get along.
Anger washing away. Forced Humility blinding me like the bathroom light at 2 a.m.
Beauty from Ashes.
Peace like I hadn’t known in years.
I wiped my face and caught my breath. He was gone. No more voice. No more words. Just me standing at a grave. Did that just happen? Was God talking to me?
I wouldn’t have thought those thoughts. I certainly didn’t direct myself to do all that. For the umpteenth time, I was convinced that God was real and He wasn’t just a clockmaker that puts everything in motion and stands back to watch.
But this causes so many more questions… theodicy, epistemology, et cetera. Who would guide me through my questions? Dad. Dad would. He wanted to.
I climbed back in the truck and drove back to work, making sure no one would be able to see in my face what had been happening.
Why I need to be convinced repeatedly of His overwhelming care, I don’t know. I do know that He tried to bring me to that spot gently, but I would not get on my knees. I would not cooperate. I do know that sometimes His actions and His will looks unjust – even downright mean – to me, but so does a strict parent to a four year old. He taught me not to judge by my ignorant perspective, what He allows.
Taking a knee before God is not about the physical posture after all.