“Be Still and Know Me.” “But That Sounds Scary!” : Two Conversations with God

I’ve been learning a lot about myself in 12 Steps.  I learned that I hugely fear people that threaten my sense of security, and I try to avoid this potential threat by withdrawing from people who might hurt me or else being so competent that no one will ever want to hurt me.  Then I realized that I was playing out this exact pattern with God, and that my distance from him these last few months has largely been because I’m very scared he’s out to hurt me.

The other night, I decided to bite the bullet and open myself up to talking with God in a real way for the first time in a long time.  I had this imaginary conversation (some might call it prayer, but I’m a doubting doubter who doubts, so there’s all my cards on the table):

Me:  I TRIED to get close to you, God.  I was going to read through the whole Bible, but Leviticus, God?  It sucks!  You’re awful to your own people!!  What are you going to do to me?  If I make one mistake, are you going to send my family members after me with machetes?  You want too much!  You just want and want and want, and it’s never enough!

God:  …

Me:  Okay, fine.  You tell me.  What DO you want?

God:  Be with me.

Me:  That sounds like a fake thing that I just want you to say.

God:  Be still and know that I am God.

Me:  Just be…and know you?  For what purpose?

God:  This is a relationship, Tricia.

Me:  So knowing and being known is the whole point?  So…who are you?

The next step is about getting to the root of my character flaw (believing that I can prevent myself from harm by either withdrawing or being competent).  I pretty quickly remembered a conversation from childhood in which a person who didn’t usually show me attention DID show me attention because of something smart that I said.  I’ve been chasing people’s attention through being smart ever sense.

Again, this led back to God.

Me:  I just want everyone to love me!  And the only way I know how to do that is to be so smart and useful that they have to.  I don’t think I can have their attention any other way.

God:  …

Me:  …You’re right.  I don’t believe that I can have your attention unless I perform well for you.

God:  Why?

Me:  Because it’s usually true with people!

God:  What if it’s not true with me?

Me:  That feels way too scary to risk, because if I’m right about this and I try another way, then you’re going to hate me and punish me.

God:  Who am I to you?

Me:  Fickle.  Impossible to please.

God:  Is that true?

Me:  I honestly don’t know.

And that’s where I’m at!  I still don’t trust God, but we’re finally talking about it, so that’s major progress.  Ugh, listen to that.  “Progress”?  What an action-oriented word to describe a relationship.  I want everything to be progress and growth and productivity.  What I’m trying to learn is that maybe I can have a loving relationship with God even without all of those things.

It’s a hard habit to kick.

 

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Overcoming Doubt with Vulnerability

I’m on Step 5 of the 12 Steps, which says we “admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  This step is about confession, obviously, but its also about the connections we form with people when we are vulnerable.  Keeping secrets is isolating, and it heightens our shame and our loneliness.  The scariest thing – revealing the worst of ourselves to another person – is our only hope.  If we risk trusting a safe person with our secrets and they still love us, well.  That is simply the best feeling in the world.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I’ve been going through a faith crisis.  This isn’t new; I’m a doubter by nature, and every couple years I start thinking, “Am I wrong about everything?  Is there a purpose to life, is God good or even real, can anything ever change for the better?”  This time, my faith crisis began with the election of Donald Trump.

It has been so confusing for me to see Christians support a man who is explicitly racist, sexist, and xenophobic.  When people who taught me the Bible as a small child defend his actions and even give Christian defenses of his “safety” measures that seem hateful and fear-mongering to me, I just…I wonder why our beliefs are so different.  The God I believe in is more loving and grace-giving and patient than our wildest dreams.  If other people believe in a God that calls us to hunker down and keep people out in order to stay safe, who’s to say whose God is the real one?

It hasn’t helped that I am reading through the Bible chronologically, and I’m currently wading through the Exodus/Leviticus laws.  It’s a crime to kill a fellow Israelite, but if you beat your slave so badly that he or she dies, you simply have to pay a fine.  That is…God’s law?  That is not something I can stomach, and it’s been eating me inside out that some of these verses seem to support the hateful, elitist God of Trump’s “Christianity.”

I used to be able to see how the God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament went together, but right now, in the midst of confusion, anger, and sadness, I can’t see it anymore.

All of this felt immense.  I worried that I was losing my faith and that I was hating God (I am, a little).  It was suffocating me.  But then I studied Step 5, and during lunch last week, I poured everything out in front of Luciana.  She tried to encourage me, but I told her, “I’m sorry, but right now nothing you say is going to make me feel better.”  She assured me that she shared my belief in a loving God, and I said, “Maybe you’re a heathen like me.”  Finally, she suggested we share dessert and said, “It’s good to doubt.  It makes our beliefs stronger, even though it’s painful.  You’re in a really good place right now.”

I didn’t believe her, but talking to her DID make the weight on my chest ease up.  I’d told someone that I kinda sorta hated God, and she had shared dark chocolate mochi with me.  So a few days later, during a dinner to get to know my new roommate, I casually mentioned that I was going through a faith crisis.  Two days later, we went out for coffee, and she carefully said, “You know how you said you were going through a faith crisis?  I am too.”  My vulnerability had opened a door that allowed us to complain to and encourage each other.  We might have sat in adjacent bedrooms for months, not knowing that the person next door was also feeling confused and betrayed and scared for the very same reason.

Nothing is necessarily figured out for me, faith-wise.  I’m still in the middle of a period of doubt, but it no longer scares me.  I even believe that God timed things so that I would study Step 5 just when I needed it, that he isn’t annoyed by my “hating” him because he is excited for the moment when I see HIM, the real him, again, and love him even more than before.

Our fears and doubts are scary, but we make them bigger than they need to be when we keep them to ourselves.  Finding the courage to share them with others can bring relief to yourself, and sometimes, for other people who need to know that they are not alone in their own fears and doubts.

We’re not meant to live alone.  It’s only in a community of honesty and acceptance that we can grow and thrive and change, and I’m so glad that I was able to live that this past week.