This will likely be the first of two or three thoughts on finding God in the low places.
I grew up in the church and I’m so thankful that I did. But, one of the challenges about growing up in the church, for me, was that I was introduced to, and inducted into, the gospel before I knew I needed it.
I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t raise our children in the church. I think it’s wonderful and right and necessary to do so, please don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying that somehow I didn’t really get it. I grew up thinking I was basically okay. I was a good person.
I didn’t understand my need for Jesus or for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. I remember telling God as a young adult that I could not relate to Paul when he said, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
I honestly did not think I was so bad.
I knew enough to know that was probably not true, but I was honest with God about where I was.
After having been out of church for most of my college years, I came back shortly after Dave and I got married, when I was 22. A couple of years later I got involved with a Bible study where we sang “contemporary” Christian music, not hymns. Many of the other people there were more demonstrative in their worship (they clapped, raised their hands, etc.). I observed them closely, because that was not what I was used to at all.
They seemed genuinely happy and seemed to feel actual love for God. That was different. I began to feel like I was hitting a wall, so to speak, because I wanted to understand what was going on with them and if it was real, I wanted it, too. However, I couldn’t seem to make that happen.
I can’t remember now what song it was, but one of the ones we sang a lot said something about being overwhelmed with God’s love for us.
I told God more than once that something was wrong with me, because I did not feel overhwelmed. I wasn’t even whelmed. In fact, I might be underwhelmed. That’s grammatically redundant, I realize, but whatever.
This is how I always talk to God – I pick everything apart and analyze it.
If He loved me that much then I was missing something because I wasn’t aware of it or able to respond to it.
In retrospect I believe I know what part of my problem was.
It’s related to what Jesus said about the “woman who lived a sinful life,” who anointed His feet with oil.
In the Message paraphrase it reads this way:
She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal. Luke 7:43-47
My lack of affection was tied to my lack of understanding of how much I had been forgiven. And how much I needed to be forgiven. There are many ways I have failed to love God and love my neighbor.
In God’s great kindness, and in answer to my prayers, however, He has shown me over time just how much I am in need of Him. Seriously, it’s laughable now that I couldn’t see it back then, but, honestly, I was headed for disaster.
Actually, I was already a disaster.
I can relate to the woman at the well when she ran through the city saying, “He told me everything I ever did!” and was happy about it.
Seeing myself for what I am, or was, put the love of God into perspective. I’ve found that He is gentle in exposing and restoring me, never harsh. My heart is tender toward Him, and seeks to know Him, so if something is being exposed in a very harsh way, it’s probably not Him.
When I was talking to God about all this in my younger days, I wanted instant results. What I got was a process. It seems that His way for me has been to find Him in the low places – in suffering, humiliation, difficulty and moments of humility, I have sensed His love the most. And now I can’t help but respond.
*There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with my church upbringing at all. I think it was a matter of maturity. Some of our kids might have a good understanding of faith from early on, but most will likely have to go through some sort of process of coming into the fullness of faith for themselves. Nobody ever rode in on the coattails of another person. They weren’t pushed, pulled or dragged, either. Each person walks into the Kingdom on his or her own two feet.