(In order to understand this blog, it would help to read Transplant to get context.)
It was a cold day. I remember where I was standing on the sidewalk. I had been walking with a friend. He innocently asked, “Do you think it was sin that caused your liver to fail?”
“What?” I thought, “Why would he think that?” As he continued to process out loud he said “Well, God is sovereign, so we know he caused it.” I had radically followed Jesus my whole life, but somewhere along the way, I must have missed the word “sovereign”. How could the God I knew and loved so much cause something so horrible to happen to me? My heart was broken, the God I knew and loved my whole life no longer made sense.
It wasn’t my transplant or my body rejecting my liver that changed it all. It was that moment, that conversation, that changed everything for me. That day I lost the God I knew and loved.
And I’ve been trying to find Him since.
I have talked about this in previous blogs, so I don’t want to belabor the point, but as I said – that was the day everything changed for me. I put my guard up. I put a wall up between me and God. If God would cause such horrible things to happen to me, I would still believe in him – but I couldn’t trust him. God became scary, distant and confusing. I decided that day that I would need to do everything I could to keep something like that from happening to me again.
You see the God I knew growing up would never cause something so awful to happen to me. He loved me and I loved him. I was confident in God’s love for me. I shared my faith with boldness. My faith was simple and strong. I knew bad things happened, but I honestly didn’t think too much about it…until something bad happened to me.
I didn’t realize it, but up to that point God looked a lot like my Dad. My Dad has always been an incredible provider. He worked hard and we were never without. To a fault (love you Dad), he made it his mission to keep us from danger. I felt very loved, protected and trusted by my Dad. My Dad made me feel safe. Therefore God made me feel safe. Because we don’t see Jesus in the flesh everyday, most of us, without knowing, create an image of God that looks a lot like our parents or someone that has played a similar role in our life. And that image may or may not be a good one. Maybe you were abused by your Dad and because of that you feel like God is scary and distant. Maybe you felt like you could never measure up to your Mom’s expectations, so you feel the same way about God. You felt like you can never measure up. Maybe your parents only prayed when they wanted something from God, so you came to see God as the magic genie.
Maybe it isn’t your parents. Maybe your God looks like your girlfriend that introduced you to Jesus. As a result, your faith in Jesus is tethered to conditional, imperfect love. Maybe your God looks like your ex-husband who claims to love Jesus in public, but emotionally abuses you in private. As a result, God doesn’t feel worth it – he will only hurt you in the end. Maybe your God looks like the youth pastor you only met once but they remembered your name. As a result, you feel seen by God and feel confident going before him with the little things.
I think if we all thought about it, at least at one point, God has resembled someone close to us. No one has a perfect image of God. And no one will until we die and see him face to face.
But the problem is that when we see God through the filter of imperfect people, we miss out on the benefits of knowing the true, perfect God.
When we see God for who he truly is, our joy doesn’t waiver based on our circumstances. When we make mistakes, we are able to make amends and then move on. We don’t sit in shame. We don’t live in fear. We don’t seek security in imperfect people and places.
One thing you may not know about me is that I’m a super clean person. It can get obsessive actually. A couple months ago we cleaned one of our windows. It was amazing how clearly we could see outside. We usually clean our windows once a year. Because of that, the buildup of dirt is gradual and we don’t notice it’s happening. That is until we clean one of them. Then the dirt becomes obnoxiously obvious. After I clean one I immediately feel the need to clean ALL the windows. I want to see clearly from all sides.
It’s like that with God. Our view of him builds so gradually that we don’t even notice. We don’t notice the smudges that block our view. When we finally get a glimpse of out of a clean window and see who he really is, we want to see it all.
So how do we see God more clearly?
To get a clear picture of who God really is we have to first find the dirt. When hardships come your way, what is your initial reaction? Do you keep God at an arm’s length away until you want something from him? Are you afraid of him? When you make mistakes, are you buried in shame? Does your security ride the waves of the mood or reactions of others around you? What are your reactions telling you about what you truly believe about God?
Recognizing the dirt is a big step in the right direction, but seeing it is not enough- you need to start cleaning. You do that by filling yourself up with the truth of who God is. Read the bible. Worship. Surround yourself with people who love Jesus. Figure out who God truly is.
Who is God? What do we know about the true nature of God? Here are a few to start with: He does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He is gracious and compassionate. He promises we will experience trials, but that he will make good out of bad.
Then go back and compare the view. I have a feeling when you get a glimpse of who God truly is – you will want to see it all. You will look back through some of those dirty windows and begin to wonder what took you so long.
It was 19 years ago that I lost the God I knew and loved. It has been a painful and joyful journey to find him, one I am still on. Often times I find myself wiping off one window, while creating a new smudge. But I keep at it because each time I get a glimpse of who God really is, the view takes my breath away. And all I want to is to see more.
Let’s keep on cleaning together,
ps. I do want to make sure it’s clear that I don’t believe a sin caused my transplant or that he necessarily caused it. It was the possibility of those things that rattled my faith. All I know is that he allowed it and he has promised to make good out of bad.