I’ve been asking around, but concrete answers are hard to find. Everyone seems to think that I should do it, but no one (including me) likes the notion or thinks that “forgiveness” is the right word, but I can’t seem to find a better one.
I guess maybe I should tell the story, first. I’m not sure where the beginning is, but I’ll try starting at the first “offense.”
“In love” would best describe how I felt. Maybe infatuated, maybe something else… but then suddenly it was over, and it was my fault, and the fault of my own sins. I felt like my heart was being cut in half, except with scissors cutting one string at a time. I wanted to die, but God had different plans. Eventually, the healing started.
Then I got a “good job” at last, and I made some friends and dealt with some issues. The pain subsided and I eventually accepted the breakup as being part of God’s plan to move me to something better. But there I was, working a job I didn’t really like, feeling like I was going nowhere, when I heard of Jumonville. I prayed and sought God and felt with certainty that He was leading me to work there for the summer.
Jumonville was amazing. I felt connected, loved, useful, and valuable. But as the wonderful summer drew to a close, I found myself praying more and more that God would show me what was next. Nothing happened, except that I felt some peace sometimes while I prayed. On the last day, I drove down the hill, not even knowing where I would sleep that night. Tears filled my eyes as I navigated the sharp turns – not for the uncertainty of where I would sleep, but for the leaving of friends.
Life in the Blender
The next few weeks felt like life on the inside of a blender. I was dizzy, going crazy, with piles to do, but nothing to do all day, trying to figure out where to go next. I couldn’t figure out what God was up to, if anything. Then I discovered Huntington University. Somehow it seemed right, and I’d been praying so long that I took it as “God’s will,” or decided that God wanted me to make this choice on my own. So I made it. The monetary similarities between renting an apartment and attending school were so close, it must have been a sign! And I knew that if I didn’t go to school in 2009, it wouldn’t happen ever.
Huntington was crazy. My first semester, I didn’t have a roommate. I constantly wondered whether I was doing what God wanted me to or not. Should I have waited longer? Prayed more? Was I “out of God’s will?” What was going on?
More clearly, though, loneliness was pervasive. I didn’t have a church family, a small group, or (what I was really hoping for) a Jumonville-like family. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anybody in my dorm because they wouldn’t understand. They were intellectuals, and came at deep theological problems that I wrestled with on a real level from a theoretical level. Consequently, I only shared my feelings of isolation with friends from Jumonville. There were a few bright spots, like Tim, a few people i swapped stories with, like Amos and Taylor… but my life felt wretchedly empty. I tried to start small groups for other people who felt isolated, but kept chickening out. Why would God do this to me, I wondered.
Michindoh and Red Lamp
Then came J-Term and Camp Michindoh. I slowly started connecting with people. Vince and I led a cabin together, with great success, and formed the kind of bond people form when they go through a war together. When we got back to Huntington for the spring semester, I moved to a freshman dorm. People came by to say hello, and Sean and Vince lived upstairs. I had friends now who knew things about me that… I wouldn’t have told them. (That was a good thing).
I discovered (almost by accident) a group called Red Lamp. Red Lamp was everything I had been trying to start the semester before. I was kinda angry at God, because Red Lamp was around last semester when I was alone and lonely and miserable.
I gradually realized that I didn’t trust God at all. Over the past few months, I had unconsciously decided that He wasn’t to be trusted. Sending me away to someplace where I didn’t know anyone, didn’t trust anyone, and taking me away from my biological family and my spiritual family… and letting me feel so dang alone for so long… how can you trust someone who does something like that?
He Loves Us
But a curious thing happened. After I admitted to not trusting God, He started working. The song “He Loves Us” played everywhere I went, and though I barely believed it, I started singing it half-heartedly. I read about how God was kind to Israel after they left Egypt, and while they complained, He provided for them. When they were thirsty and didn’t understand and thought He had left them in the desert to die, He simply provided water. They complained, and He provided. (Frederick Buechner remarked that “the Jews… are just like everybody else only more so.)
And last night during Red Lamp, it kinda culminated. I was reminded of Isaiah 43:4, where God says that “…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…” and I started trying to process it.
Precious? Me? I barely understand the meaning of the word. Honored? I get that, but it doesn’t seemed to apply. “I love you.” Loved? I rewrote the word in my prayer journal incredulously, trying to remember what love felt like, giving or receiving. I missed that feeling.
And then I remembered an illustration I’d made at Jumonville, about how God always loves us, but we can block His love from reaching us sometimes. I realized that my not trusting Him was blocking me from receiving His love. If you don’t let God in, nothing that belongs to Him can get in.
So I decided that I want to let Him in. I want to let go of my grudge and my hard feelings. He’s too kind to keep out, and too gracious to force His way in. But He’s knocking now, and His grace is ringing out “so deep, it makes my resistance seem so thin” (Hold Me Jesus, Rich Mullins). And He’s such a gentleman that I think He’s waiting patiently for me to make up my mind about this forgiveness business. I don’t think He’s upset at me… and I’m not sure if I can be, at Him.
But there’s a problem: How do you let go of a grudge against God? How do you release resentment and mend the relationship? Were it anyone else, we would say forgiveness. But it’s not as though God can commit any kind of crime! Sin is impossible to Him, so to “forgive” God as though He had done us some evil will certainly not work. And certainly, I know that He is doing this for my good… but He hasn’t bothered to explain what good it is, and I don’t know if it even matters. I still feel hurt… but I want to release that hurt from blocking me from my Father’s love.
And I wonder if Joseph, in jail, ever became angry or resentful at God? Did Joseph have to “forgive” God, for lack of a better word? Another blogger points out that Paul “beseeches” the church at Corinth to “be reconciled to God.”
Of late, people have said a lot about being angry with God. It has become acceptable to shake one’s fist at heaven and scream that it’s unfair. But how do you pull down your fist and, the situation seeming no less unfair and making not one iota more sense, embrace God in spite of it all because He loves you in spite of all your so-called evidence to the contrary? Should it be called repentance? Is repentance a way of “forgiving God?” Is “Forgiveness” an appropriate word for what I want to do? What do you think?