Friday, August 21, 2015

Formulaic God...



As many know, a man was murdered Wed. night down the street from us. Last night my husband was working on a car for a friend and he told me he was going to stay with it until he got it done and that it was going to take a while. I knew that meant it could be really late before he got home and it was - well after midnight.
During the day I wasn't frightened by the news that someone had been killed on our street; only shocked and saddened. Last night with darkness all around, I told myself I felt a little uneasy. When I heard Phil's voice over the phone at ten til 1 saying, "I am almost home", I started silently crying. And that was when I knew I was more than just sad, shocked, and/or a little uneasy. I was scared.
Then at about 2 a.m., 5 or 6 firetrucks, with sirens blasting, roared past our bedroom window and turned onto a nearby side street. And we wondered whose house was in danger, was it serious, and, in light of Wed. evenings events, was it just a fire?
Just a fire? As in: just a house possibly going up in flames due to natural causes is, um, a relatively benign thing... comparatively speaking...
This morning I woke up early, unable to go back to sleep, feeling old, under par health-wise, and defeated by life in the 'hood.
But just last night I sat in front of my computer sort of bug eyed, listening to a speaker tell me that all I have to do is say to sickness, credit card debt, stress, and/or any type of affliction:, "Grace! Grace!". He assured me that if I did this, all my troubles would vanish. I sat there for a few minutes, mesmerized by this message, waiting for the speaker to whip out a top hat, wave a wand over it, and yell, "Rabbit! Rabbit!" only to see a bunny come hopping out of it. With gold bars in its paws.
When I ex-ed out of the sermon, maybe I felt a tiny bit superior to the people in the audience who were commanding their credit card debt to go away? I don't know. I hope not.
Because, honestly, the first thing I journaled this morning was: I sooo started out this day wanting to manipulate God with all my heart, mind, and soul, wishing I could make Him appear like a genie out of a bottle to do my biding.
As this sentence flowed from my heart onto my paper, I realized I was basically wanting to say "Jump" (respectfully of course) and hear God reply, "How high?" Talk about wanting to make a spiritual bunny hop out of a religious hat....
Almighty! Form-u-laic! God!!!
Is there such a thing as a formulaic God? /=
If so, which formula is the right one?
If I pray hard enough, long enough, with the right words, posture, Scripture, and faith...then I'll get what I want.
IF I meet with the right people, say the right words, study the right translation, and follow the rules, then God will have to bless my flesh.
If I avoid the wrong people and eschew the wrong foods, entertainment, fads, and places, then God will confer great honor on me.
IF I give to the poor, post spiritual memes on FB, listen to inspirational music, and serve worthy causes, then ...
(Or do I follow the high road and expect nothing from God here on earth in the way of physical blessings because to never be disappointed is the same as being blessed?)
As these random (and, yes, terrible) thoughts went through my mind, I opened my Bible and read through tired eyes:
"Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building... [they]said to them, "let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God..."
"But Zerubbabel and Jeshua... said to them, "You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God..."
"Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel..." (Ezra 4:1-5)
Not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord" and espouses a predictable religious formula is seeking God. On my down days when I'm wishing God would magically appear and do my biding because I'm "doing the right things and life is too tough" - that includes me.
There will always be enemies and sometimes they are us. Not just people who are openly hostile to God. Not just people who appear to have successfully bagged God and put Him in a box. But people like me - who get tired at times and just feel with all their heart, mind, and soul that just once they need God to show up and fix everything!!! Sometimes I am my own worst enemy, spiritually speaking.
But the book of Ezra doesn't end with chapter 4, verse 5. The Jews were discouraged. They were stymied. The enemy was winning. They needed something from their God. And He did indeed give His downtrodden people help. However, it didn't come in the form of instantaneous freedom from all opposition coupled with an instant, super-sized, magically produced temple. Instead He gave them the ability to go on, He made a way for them to keep building, and He empowered them to carry out His will - which was not necessarily synonymous with their own will on every. single. God-given day.
I believe that God gave me that Scripture this morning to remind me that He is building, He is working. Even in the 'hood. And that when we feel tired and discouraged, He may perform a miracle. But He may just also enable us to put one spiritual foot in front of the other. When the work is done, He may reward us Here or He may wait until we are There. Either way, it's okay.
Formulaic God?
IF there is one, I haven't found Him yet.
And I'm alright with that.