Thursday, February 5, 2015

An Emotionally Unavailable God

My recent posts on connection have spurred additional thinking and pondering, which may or may not be a good thing.  Without question, we were designed for human connection and in its absence we break, we hurt and often we numb.  But we were also designed for spiritual connection and without it have a void in the deepest part of our core.  It is this spiritual void, along with the lack of solid and healthy human connections that drive so much destructive behavior--destructive behavior against self as well as against others.

The Creator designed men and women to join in the connections and interactions that the members of the Godhead enjoy.  Our first glimpse of the Creator at work is of a God who designed all of His creation to be interactive and dynamic--to be a creation of connections.  We see a God who came and walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden that He had created for them and we see the enemy of God coming in and attempting to destroy that sweet communion and connection.  The Genesis account indicates that after they had disobeyed God, Adam and Eve were ashamed and hid themselves from God.  Shame, that nemesis of connection, the originator of disconnections, was born in a Garden designed for connection.

It occurs to me, however, that much of religious teaching and theology paints a picture of a God who is unavailable for emotional connection.  He is a mercurial tyrant, waiting for us to make a mistake--the hammer of his judgment is always ready to fall on unsuspecting and feeble mankind.  Scripture taken out of context and poorly interpreted is used to support this portrait of an unloving, untrustworthy and dangerous task master.  And all of creation trembles in fear rather than dare to draw close to this god, as we were designed to do.

I grew up in legalistic "holiness" churches where frightening scenarios of end-time events was regularly stressed.  According to the theology I was taught, no matter how "good" I was, if I had not attained a significant level of "holiness," I would not see God.  Furthermore, even if I lived a righteous life (and really, who can do that?), if I had one bad thought or one unconfessed sin and the Rapture occurred, I would be left behind.  I remember riding on a city bus one morning and becoming quite anxious that maybe the Rapture had occurred and I had been left behind.  I anxiously scanned the faces of people in the bus and those we passed in cars and on street corners, looking for someone that I knew was a Christian.  I finally got off the bus, raced to a pay phone (remember those?) and called home.  I can still remember the palpable relief I felt when my mom answered the phone.

So God was not available for emotional connection--He was dangerous and I lived in fear of Him.  It is impossible to connect authentically and transparently with someone that we are afraid of.  It is just not possible.  So, while I have been "religious" all of my life--a regular church goer, a BA in Bible and a MA with some significant graduate classes in theology, etc., I have not felt a deep spiritual connection to God--I have felt that void and emptiness in my core.  And I know that I am not alone.  Indeed, this is the condition of all of humanity.  We are seeking to fill that God-sized hole with everything but connection with God because we have been taught that He is unapproachable.
For me, the path to connection with God has required letting go--letting go of teachings that make no sense in light of the Gospel message--that of a God who sacrificially gave of Himself in order to reconcile His creation to Himself.  The Gospel message is a message of unconditional and extravagant LOVE--not of retribution and punishment!  It has required reevaluating all that I was taught and studying the Bible with fresh new eyes.  It has involved reading works by authors who have dared to challenge the "status quo" of religious teachings--people such as Richard Rohr, Paula D'Arcy, Paul Young and Rob Bell, to name a few.  And it has involved rocking a sweet granddaughter, with such love in my heart that I felt I could not contain one more ounce.  If I, as a flawed human being am able to love someone as much as I love my sweet grace baby, how much more does PapaGod love me?

God is not unavailable for emotional connection.  Connection is what He is all about.  We have just been fed notions about him that did not originate with him.  And it is time to let them go and reach out for the God who is there and who is available--the God who is waiting with longing to connect with us.