On the last night of Spring Harvest this year, I bought a book. It was written by the speaker that night, Jeff Lucas, and it’s called Lucas Out Loud. As such it’s not about anything in particular, just odd anecdotes about his life and his church and some musings on parts of the bible. It’s very human, not at all preachy, and still now gives me moments where I remember something from it and I have to stop and think.
I’ve always had difficulty connecting with God. Not in the happy times, where it’s traditionally easy for him to get shelved, not even especially in the bad times, when it seems he’s the one shelving us. It’s the times when there’s things happening in my life that the bible censors but I don’t, when I’m not hurting anybody but it feels uncomfortably like an excuse to say ‘my own moral compass knows best’. I felt like that when I was going out with a girl, and I feel like that sometimes being in an intimate relationship without being married. It’s typical christian teenager conflicts.
The problem with them is that, even when you work out your own tentative answers to the bible’s problem areas, as I did (doesn’t God love everyone?; in the times of the bible being written, wasn’t marriage the only kind of committed relationship?), there’s still a bit of guilt when you really get down to it, and that’s difficult to deal with. I feel the furthest from God when I’m in that biblical grey area, when something doesn’t feel wrong. Shouldn’t I be feeling guilty? When I get to those questions, my first instinct is to avoid God, to still pray sometimes, perhaps, but about other things, to imagine that if I don’t mention it, he won’t notice. It’s hide and seek in a desert.
But I don’t think God wants us to be so far away, even when we’re feeling all prodigal, even when we feel we have no right to talk to him about it – or he has no right to talk to us. Even when we’re not feeling ready to give something up, even when we’re feeling guilty for not feeling guilty. I think he wants to be with us whatever.
The bit of Lucas’ book that moved me the most was something he wrote about the Christian propensity for guilt. God is, well, perfect, but we’re doing wrong all the time. How can we ever be close to him? He writes*, I’ve just finished a lengthy study of the seven churches of Revelation, and I was stunned to discover that Jesus had no word of rebuke at all for two of them – only commendation and a verbal pat on the back. The lack of rebuke is… stunning. Why are we at home with the threat of judgement, but struggle with the idea that God might want to tell us that we’re doing alright? When we finally step forward on the last day, perhaps the hugest shock of all will be the sight of a perfect God, whispering the most unexpected greeting to plebs like us: “well done, good and faithful servant”.
We’re imperfect, but we’re trying. And I feel just as guilty sometimes as the next teenage christian does, but I like to believe that he still thinks we’re doing okay, even when there’s things that we’re not ready to put in front of him just yet. He wants to come and meet us at whatever point we can do, wherever we are. Michelangelo was dead on with his depiction of God straining to reach Adam, not vice versa. So I’d just like to say, he thinks you’re doing alright. And I am too.
Wow, so I had more to say on that subject than I thought. This is all elaborate and intellectual packing procrastination, I think. I have reached the limits of suitcase capacity but not the limits of Things Needing to Be Packed. So I’ll go do that. I’m away in France from tomorrow until Wednesday 13th August. I’ll have my phone with me as always. Farewell, anonymous reader. <3
*some bits omitted to save my fingers