As children exposed to the concept of God, we are often left with an image of a great big control board up in the sky with a throne-like chair where an old man with a long white beard sits. Many of us grew up assuming that God is a man, looking just like any other male figure with two legs, a nose and some hair on top of his head. We came to this assumption at no fault of our own. The only literary knowledge of biblical authors was a male-dominated society, so obviously their writing would reflect that. And when we envision God in the image of our own humanity, it makes perfect sense that God would make things happen. Just as we recycle our cardboard boxes and plastic bottles out of concern for the earth, God can push the earthquake button on the control panel whenever God gets mad enough to do so. I have a problem with that. I believe that God is different than us.
I believe that earthquakes and storms and floods happen as a result of the natural movement and aging process of the earth. Likewise, I believe that cancer is a result of the polluted world we live in and its effects on genetics. I believe that accidents are accidents (the only reason I stubbed my toe is because my foot and my bed frame came to be in the exact same spot at the exact same time), and home invasions and hit-and-runs are the direct result of people’s careless decisions. God doesn’t make these things happen, we do, or the natural world does.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a phrase similar to, “Well, I guess God has it out for me.” If I believed that God made a five-year-old girl drown, a surgery go terribly wrong, or a bomb detonate in a crowded arena, I wouldn’t be in this line of work because I wouldn’t think very highly of that kind of god. It’s one thing to be puppets on a string controlled by a moody god that resides high above us in the clouds, but it’s an entirely different - and liberating - concept to believe that God is with us, empowering us in a world of tragedy and chaos. It’s the difference between God as the catastrophe of life, and God in the catastrophe of life. The former really offers no hope, while the latter transforms our lives.
Standing on the side of the road with some youth hoping to raise awareness of humanitarian aid for poverty stricken corners of the world, I witnessed conflicting reactions. I watched as one truck revved its engine and squealed its tires before speeding past us. The driver shouted out the window, “Let them starve!” That incident happened as a result of an arrogant young man who has yet to comprehend the mighty consequences of humanitarian indignity. People choose to act a certain way, and their choice does not reflect the God I believe in. But, there were hundreds of people who drove by that day, so many which honked their horns in support, or pulled over and asked how they could help. One bad decision to refuse people the basic necessities of life was met with a plethora of good decisions to aid in supplying clean drinking water, food, and medical equipment to people who need it. And that’s where God was found, the God of Jesus who pleaded with 1st century leaders and followers to embrace the poor, that’s the God I believe in. The world is made complex all on its own, it’s God that breathes life into all the complexities.