Frequently, we joke about things that actually matter to us. Perhaps this is because we are insecure with our ability to make sound judgment, based upon our intellect, acumen, and instinct. After all, we are trained from the cradle — at school, at work, at church, in the movies, on the news — to trust and accept the pronouncements of our experts, leaders, pastors, teachers, and guides.
But an ability to reason and think is not dependent upon one’s social status, family name, or aptitude in raping profits from the masses, and when something doesn’t seem right to us, we are wise to listen to ourselves, even if no one else does.
One of the things we collectively joke about is our reaction to Facebook and other social media that put the lives of others — in all perfection, glory, and accomplished excellence — before us. If we’re not in a relationship, we feel bad because everyone else is. If we’ve got a job, it’s never as fulfilling as that of our “friends.” Even our children, or our pets, are the wrong shape, form, or personality type.
“My life sucks,” we say with a self-deprecating smile. “Isn’t that funny?”
No, it’s not, and the first truth we bring to our reasoning intellect is that social media is shallow, skimming just the surface of things, presenting an outer shell of people we know so distantly, we accept their carefully brushed shellac covering as representative of their entire being. We’ve done this with celebrities and politicians for years; now we do it with our acquaintances. (Generally, the people we know well enough to regularly communicate with, we are not fooled by. We are intimate enough to hear their real thoughts, and express back to them our own.)
Quite recently, I was blindsided by a surging, pulsating sense of jealousy arising from an adventitious post by a person I superficially knew many years ago, and haven’t kept in touch with since. She had something I wanted, and not only that, everything about her was perfect: her hair, her clothes, her circumstances, her life.
“It’s unfair!” I cried to God. “Nothing is wrong with her life. NOTHING.”
Even as I spoke I knew that, 1) I was being inaccurate and, 2) this way of thinking is not good, but there was one thing, to my unexpected gratification, I did not conclude:
“I shouldn’t say things like this! God will be angry with me. I must, before I can come before Him, conquer this evil jealousy within me. I cannot enter His Holy Presence with such unclean thoughts.”
Such is the training I received during years of church indoctrination, in which I was taught the subtle, slippery canons of men in place of the wisdom of God. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48) someone is sure to advise, were I foolish enough to reveal my true thoughts to a stranger.
But God is no stranger; He is my almost shockingly and too often unbelievably loving Father, and as any good parent knows (or should know — there’s a tremendous amount of bad “Christian” parenting advice about demanding craven obedience from one’s children as a sign of their love), children are just that — children. They grow and learn by gentle teaching, not harsh rejection, and good parents are safe enough, accepting enough, wise enough, understanding enough, that a child can approach and say,
“I feel really angry with my brother. I know it’s not right, but I can’t conquer the feeling within me. What can I do?”
What parent, upon hearing this, would reply,
“Get out of my sight, vile creature, and don’t return until your attitude is right!”
Bad Parenting versus Good
Sadly, some do, but mercifully, God does not style His parenting techniques after the teachings of pop psychological Christian authors and radio show prattlers, or their foolish acolytes. He knows, though we often do not, that our growth into maturity is not something we can reach inside and get if only we try hard enough (false Christianity calls this “faith”), and our attempt to put on a front is just that: we deny our feelings and “act Christian,” which fools our Facebook and church acquaintances, and eventually, even ourselves, but not God.
“Tell me your feelings,” is His invitation to us. “I know them already. It is you, Child, who do not. Together we will work, and I will teach you how to understand your feelings, face them, change them, and because I am gentle and humble in heart, I will not beat you, or hurt you, or be disgusted by you.”
Or, as the apostle Paul puts it in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” which means what it sounds like it means, regardless of innumerable Bible studies setting it in lofty heights of twisted theological contortions. The good news of the gospel, twisted theological contortions nudge us into missing, is that God cares for us, understands us, and embraces us.
We are His children, and He Loves Us.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I hope to encourage you to think about the things you’ve been taught about God, and ask yourself, “Is this the kind of Person I want to believe in?” It’s a valid question, you know, and you’re perfectly in line with asking it, as well as seeking an answer.
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