I’ve gotten this question a few times this week, sometimes wrapped in sarcasm, sometimes demanded snidely, but underneath it all it’s a really good question, one I don’t focus on nearly enough. Unfortunately I cannot compress nearly half a century of conversations with God and the lessons I’ve learned there, into a convenient tweet of 144 characters or less.
The simple answer is everything. Every breath, every heartbeat, my life itself I owe to God. Sometimes if I am quiet I can feel Him working in my body, healing me, changing cells, repairing damage. Our bodies are incredible, we are literally new creatures every few years as old cells are cast off and new ones born. You are not the same person you were 7 years ago, not on a cellular level.
Not to gross anyone out, but you learn not to take this healing for granted when you nurse older people. Once in a while when people are in the process of dying, that healing switch shuts off and the results can be rather horrific if you aren’t vigilant. One tiny spot can become a huge wound in a matter of hours. Skin no longer repairs itself, cells no longer rush in to heal the damage. It’s quick and it’s catastrophic.
On a different level however, there are three scriptures that stumped me right off the bat, 3 John 1:2, Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. John 3:16, For God so loved the world… and 1 Timothy 2:2, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
I know God never lies and I know scripture never lies, but I was born into less than ideal circumstances and then things got decidedly worse, until I frequently started to wonder if I hadn’t been condemned to a penal colony full of stupid people. These three passages speak of a loving God who wants only good things for us, who desires all to be saved, and yet all the evidence around me pointed to something different. I struggled with this for years. Sometimes when you look about the world, wars, starvation, poverty, it doesn’t appear as if we have a loving God, Sometimes if you look at your own life, it’s easy to say God hates me or perhaps He doesn’t exist at all. Those things are false, those are deceptions, errors in our understanding.
People can be funny, we’re reluctant to take much responsibility for ourselves. Most of the ugly things in the world are obviously people caused, either deliberately or an unintentional chain reaction we’ve set off. There are also some dark things at play. Usually however, we try to blame God, even when we don’t believe He exists. If there is suffering in the world it must be God’s fault. If He didn’t do it Himself, it’s still His fault because He allowed us to do it to ourselves. He should have stopped us, protected us from the consequences of our own actions. Those are also errors in our thinking.
In my own life, this idea that I may be responsible for the conditions and circumstance that seemed to be afflicting me was extra challenging, because I have so frequently been in a state of powerlessness. I did my darndest to control everything I could, to make good choices, and yet the payoff was so frequently not there. I sow, somebody else reaps. I do right, somebody stomps on me. Over and over again. I know what it’s like to be the bug on people’s windshields, their collateral damage. God didn’t do it however, He got me through it.
It turns out that the more I try to control and fix things, the more harm I do to my own self. It’s counter intuitive, but that was the solution to so many of my problems, the only way to gain some control was to surrender all. It’s kind of interesting, you see this same spiritual principle in many other forms, in alcoholics anonymous, the first step is to admit you are powerless. We try to cling to control and hope we can force the ship to right itself, when in fact, sometimes it’s best to relinquish all hope and just let go of the wheel. It’s amazing to me how often our course can be corrected simply by not trying to steer anymore, but just letting the tide carry you. Surrendering to the idea that there are forces greater than you, often makes a profound difference in our lives. Much of the harm we do to ourselves comes from rebellion, an unwillingness to surrender.
So what has God done for me? I come from some pretty dark places. I was born into the 60’s, a time of chaos and confusion, lots of drugs, free sex, experimentation. My parents had a lot of issues themselves, wounding, brokenness. They got a divorce and my mother ran with me and we went into hiding in assorted communes and cults. I didn’t go to school, church, have much contact with the outside world. There was lots of violence, abuse, chaos all around me. When I grew up, I had all those issues to deal with, so I attracted broken people, surrounded myself with those engaged in drugs, alcohol, assorted dysfunction. I became immersed in this world full of poverty, despair, suicide, surrounded by it, but surprisingly untouched.
By all accounts I should be a complete mess. My sister is, my mother is, and most of my former friends are now all dead. The world I come from is a cold, hard place, and there really is no rational explanation for why I have survived somewhat intact, thrived even. God however, loves to throw a wrench in our version of “rational explanations.”
That is what God has done for me, he has protected me, watched over me, healed me. He has taught me things, transformed me, taken ugliness and made it beautiful. He has given me beauty for ashes. He has filled me with peace, put a song in my heart, and opened my eyes to a whole world I could not see for a long time.
It’s a very hard concept for many people to grasp, but if you think God is not real or that He doesn’t love us, the error is always going to be on our end and likely the result of faulty thinking. It’s not easy letting go of that thinking, it requires you to put your trust in things unseen, but the so-called evidence we think we see all around us is so often a deception.
The absence of my faith would be a bit like the absence of that healing I mentioned earlier. Without Christ, on a spiritual level, One tiny spot can become a huge wound in a matter of hours. Skin no longer repairs itself, cells no longer rush in to heal the damage. It’s quick and it’s catastrophic. Without Christ, death is the only form of mercy we can really understand.