I have joy because God met me in a cold, dark, broken place. I was not love-able and I did not love Him.
I was tired today. With Jeff working out of state and the kids away, I wanted something different than the usual “song, announcement, 3 songs, sermon, closing song” Sunday. So I threw on a ratty sweatshirt, dark glasses with very little make up on, and went to see the movie, “The Shack”. Not having read the book, it was mostly out of curiosity to see what all the controversy around the book and film was about. As the film progressed, I sat in the theatre sobbing to the point of embarrassment-because I knew that God. That was the God I used to know-the God in that shack-before everyone told me I was wrong.
I have known God since the time I can ever remember. He was always there. From my earliest memories we were friends. I grew up in Oregon in the forest, much like scenes from the film. Every day when I would play outside, I was never alone. It was always God and I. I never felt afraid or lost or lonely. He showed me the wonderment of His creation. We played, and talked, and I felt loved. At night when the darkness and fear would creep in, I would talk to God under my blankets and asked Him to take care of the animals, the birds, the hurting, even the children in Africa. If it was raining (which it was Oregon so it always was) I’d ask him to keep everyone safe and warm. This is how I fell asleep. Talking to my best friend.
AND THEN, I grew up in church. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the people and the church I grew up in. It’s just, well- this is where the rules and the confusion started. I was told about a God that required all these “laws” to be followed in order to be blessed or even to have a relationship with. I was supposed to “fear” God, but the God I knew was everything that encapsulated love. I began to worry I was a “lukewarm Christian”, a Christian who “fits their idea of God into what’s convenient for them instead of the God of the Bible.” I couldn’t follow the rules to this other God. The rules didn’t and still don’t make sense to me.
Fast forward to when my life is in complete shambles and I hate God. I tried on a few occasions to deny His existence. But I couldn’t. I looked back over my life and I couldn’t deny the God I once knew. Only I didn’t know that God anymore. I only knew a God that was morphed into a confusing mix of being judging but generous. Relationship….with rules. Loving but potentially loathsome of me. Too many well-meaning voices of other Christians with differing opinions, theologies, and views of God, drowned out my joy-my understanding of who I once knew God to be. So I chose to still believe in Him but told Him very clearly I didn’t like Him.
As my life fell apart further, God met me in a cold, dark, broken place. I was not loveable and I did not love Him. I had lost everything to the point of being face down on the floor- filled with anger, hurt and despair. It was in that place He came like a gentleman, and invited me to ask the hard questions.
I venture to say I am not alone. I venture to think that I am not the only one God has met at that hopeless place where someone’s life has been so crushed by the loss of something beautiful and innocent. Whether that’s a child, a relationship, health, security. To be faced everyday with the monotony of trying to live with overwhelming pain that is unbearable. Pain others do not see or understand. Until, at some point, they have nowhere to go but fall into an angry, hurting heap in that cold dark place. I venture to say God met them there, too. And like me, like the gentleman in the movie, they were invited to ask the hard questions. Questions that never were completely answered. Hurt that was never completely healed. Loss that was never fully replaced. But somehow through the process-whether it be days or years-they found themselves letting go. Letting go and trusting things they didn’t fully understand. And in exchange finding themselves freer, more capable of love, and filled with unexpected joy because they came face to face with the one true God. I have joy because God met me, chose to care and rescue me, at my weakest. Is this not the gospel? He not only rescued me from sin, but He rescued, and continues to rescue me from myself.
I am not a theologian. I don’t understand the controversy-nor do I care to-over, “The Shack”. I just know that I KNOW that God. The God who cares, is loving, doesn’t fix things instantly, but instead walks with you through the process of dealing with your pain. If I’m wrong and my theology is bad, that’s ok. Because the God I know still loves me anyway. Like the God in the Garden of Eden who came out to talk to Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, He still talks to me. If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, than the God I knew yesterday is the God I want to know forever. He has, and will always be, my best friend.
Stacy Pederson is a Colorado based Christian comedian and speaker. StacyPederson.info