Photo by sunshinecity
I’m trying to make sense of the tangled mess that’s created when my relationship with God gets all confused with my relationship with Christians.
Somehow the wires get crossed, and suddenly part of me is thinking the words of (usually) well-meaning Christians are coming from God. Then my anger toward the well-meaning Christian gets projected onto God, and so the tangle begins. You don’t have to come up with very many examples of this in your own life to realize how easy it is to let this happen, and how harmful it is when it does.
There’s no question that our human capacity to love and forgive is so miniscule compared to God’s—that’s bound to be a key problem in this confusion. But there’s another significant problem, I think: how vastly different our human perspective is from God’s.
While we’re busy making checklists of behaviors and sins, evaluating how others are doing in a very black-and-white, methodical way, God sees each person’s whole heart, mind and spirit all blended together as a whole, in the context of all the potential he created in us. While we have a knack for focusing on one small piece of one small moment, God sees the enormously big picture—not just where we are, but where we’ve been and where it’s all ultimately taking us.
The checklist Christian compared to a big-picture God
Here’s an example. In 2006, a year after I met Jason and eight months before our wedding, Jason moved in. That’s right, folks, we were living in sin. We made that choice not because we think it’s the “right way to go,” or that waiting until your married is sooo outdated, but because it made a lot of sense to us then, in light of our specific circumstances. I’m going to put it another way, to be extra clear: I am not suggesting that living together outside of marriage is the right choice. It’s simply what we chose, as two people who had each been married before and had been traveling down a long road of pain, cynicism and healing.
And I do not regret it or feel apologetic. Because, do you know what? While some Christians might look at that decision—that time in my life—as sinful, plain and simple, end of story, I see that time in my life as one full of grace, redemption, and reconciling with God and his people (and myself, for that matter).
This is not to say that living with Jason made any of that grace and redemption possible; I’m just saying that those things coincided in my life, and that I believe, deep in my gut, that God was seeing the big, full picture. I believe he was celebrating my progress back towards him, even in the midst of my inevitable stumbling along the way. Because the fact is, I was much closer to God at that time in my life, and striving much more earnestly to be his servant, than I ever was during my first marriage—the time in my life that looked so good on paper to those checklist Christians.
So what do I get from all of this? Two key thoughts:
1. Stop judging others in our inevitably human ways. And since not one of us is capable of judging in God’s way, I suppose we can just leave it at this: Don’t judge. Stop making mental lists of sins and stop assuming that you know anything about a whole person, let alone their whole story.
2. Tell your story. Tell all of it, as it really is, not as you think it should have been or even as you wish it had been. God is bigger than all of our wrong turns, and he is so much bigger than all of the checklist Christians in the world put together. The Bible is full of redemption stories like the ones we have to tell—they certainly aren’t pretty, but they are powerful, because they ultimately point to the power of God’s love in a messy, human world.