In my own life I’m going through a new phase, a new era… I’m getting married. Next week Friday, to be exact, and in this process leading up to the marriage I’ve been reminded again that God is not the God if the ideal. In fact, God isn’t interested in the ideal– he seems interested in something else, entirely.
Both me and my wife-to-be have made certain prayers during this phase, most of them to do with our financial matters and such; and today I found myself quite disappointed, as I was hoping for a particular financial matter to be sorted out (in some form of miraculous way, as that was really my only option left) and at the eleventh hour… nothing… at 11:45… nothing. At 12? Still nothing. So the only way I was able to sort it out was to borrow money (from the bank, as in… a credit card) and then had to wrestle with God with a ton of questions.
“God, don’t you say that debt is a bad thing? Why have you allowed me to get into debt?”
“God, don’t you say you will supply my needs? Well, this was a need, and you haven’t seemed to have come through…”
“God, don’t the psalms say that if we trust in You we will never be disappointed?”
Yes, probably in the next week I’ll be able to pay off the credit card, so God hasn’t truly let me down – He has supplied me enough business so that I can meet the need eventually. But why didn’t He sort it out so that I didn’t have to get into debt in the first place? Would it not have been ideal if I got paid the money I’m owed from various people today, as I was promised, so that I could pay for the thing we needed to have done? Why didn’t He do something? Why didn’t He produce the miracle I’ve heard other people talk about – you know, the cheque under the door, the surprise deposit, the something? Do I need to make excuses for Him – write this off with some excuse about me not praying hard enough? Or not planned wisely enough? Or not done something that somehow I was supposed to know to do even though I didn’t?
Then I’m reminded, again and again, that somewhere in my mind I still struggle to get rid of the lie that had been pumped into me from our culture, both inside and outside the church: life is supposed to be ideal. Life is meant to be what you need NOW. Life is Woolworths. You know, it’s nutritious (so they say) and it’s quick – just pop it in the Microwave. All you need in only a few minutes…
It's the happy Jesus... yes, I couldn't afford to buy it from iStockPhoto... didn't you read the entry?
Faith is largely a journey of disappointments that end in surprises of joy. But it is not the journey of the ideal… yet, has not the modern church insisted that it should be? Haven’t we all heard the formula before? You know, the do x and y happens formula?
The live righteously and God will come through… miss it, and He won’t formula?
So, if God is not coming through, you’ve missed it buddy. You didn’t believe hard enough… you didn’t pray hard enough… you didn’t say the right thing to your mom this morning… you messed up, and so God didn’t come through. Had you not messed up, then He would have come through.
In disappointment there’s two people we can blame – either ourselves, or God. But neither of them are actually the problem… perhaps what we’ve been taught is the problem. Perhaps our culture is the problem.
We believe in the god of the ideal. Well, that’s not the true Living God. If it was, He wouldn’t have sent His Son to die for us… He would have probably just appeared and forgotten the whole thing.
Why a bloody crucifixion?
Why a mystery?
Why not fit into a box, God?
Why not do the ideal? What’s wrong with you?
What is God doing? Would the ideal not be to come down and sort out all the injustices of the world, right now? Why
Obama's got the Colgate smile... if Obama's got it, shouldn't Jesus?
put it in the hands of Christians to do (with Him, but nevertheless make it our responsibility)? Why is He not interested in the ideal? Why doesn’t He just do what makes sense?
On the journey of faith, we must let go of the God of the Ideal and latch onto the God who gets His hands dirty, who spits into the eyes of the blind, who writes in the sand. The God that doesn’t have a Colgate smile, but rather a dirty cloak and messed up hair. Maybe His breath even stinks. The God that died naked on a cross – dirty, ugly, smelly, disgusting… yet a sweet and beautiful fragrance. A picture of glory, of true joy! This is the tension of faith, the life on the edge, the beautiful view at the end of the cliff – where we’re on the knife-edge of danger and peril.
Let’s let go of the God of the Ideal, who we can formulise, theologise, scientifogise. It’s time to embrace the mystery… to embrace the dirt… to let our breath stink…
to die naked on a cross…
And perhaps not even know why…
But still know that He is good.
About Ryan Peter
Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.