Apr 28, 2009

Anger at God

Everyone gets angry at God sometimes, that is just reality. Well, maybe I should say that everyone who acknowledges God's existence gets angry (or at the very least, frustrated) with God sometimes. It happens. Rain pours down on us when we are struggling to get the groceries from the car to our abode. Car engines quit working in the middle of a busy freeway. We don't get the job we were pining for. Babies simply will not stop screaming no matter how many snacks or silly faces you offer them. Thousands of children die every day from starvation. Widows and orphans are created every day due to famine, war, and disease. A new illness is threatening to turn into a pandemic. Who wouldn't be a little frustrated at God right now?

Anger or frustration at God is not the issue--I think he can handle it. What concerns me is when people let this anger or frustration BECOME an issue in their personal relationship with the Creator. Far too many people allow a little frustration become a barrier to going to church, spending time in the word, fellowshipping, or even leaving the house. These people get far too caught up in their anger and what that means for them. How selfish! We are called in the Bible to be ambassadors of Christ on Earth. We are supposed to love the poor, feed the starving, clothe the homeless, visit brothers in prison, laugh with the blessed--to be Christ on Earth and shine God's love into the darkness surrounding us. If instead we are spending our days moping about because God is not doing what we want him to, how are we going to accomplish those goals? I'm sorry, but I do not see how moping about furthers the kingdom of God.

From the limited life experience that I have had, remember that I'm 21, I have seen that the source of most anger towards God is when he does not do what we humans think he should. He does not save Uncle Ned from cancer. He does not stop a ravaging tornado that wreaks havoc on small communities in the Midwest. He did not prevent the Valdez oil spill that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up (work that is still on-going). He does not intercede in the wars raging on the planet's surface or stop the genocide in Darfur. He does not ensure that we get 100% on that critical final project for a capstone class. He did not prevent Mom from getting breast cancer. We get so angry at the ultimate Being for not doing what we want him to do that we lose focus on what he does on a daily basis. He makes sure the cosmos do not spin themselves into oblivion. He protects his children from demonic attack. He makes sure the sun continues to shine so that we may be fed and kept warm. He keeps every single promise that he ever made in the Bible--including that his ways are greater than man's understanding.

My dad, a rather interesting cranky old man, once told me that we see one corner of one puzzle piece of the infinite puzzle that is all of reality. God sees all of that reality. While this may seem like a simplistic explanation, it makes sense if you really think about it. We only see our day-to-day lives and those things that directly influence us while God sees the big picture. We get angry when God does not do what we want him to do--in doing so we forget that HE is Lord, not us. We forget that we are made to love and serve him, not the other way around. We forget that God, like so many parents, does things that his children do not understand for their best interest. How many times do parents say "You do not understand why I tell you not to run in the road now, but you will later" (or anything similar)? When we get frustrated because our car will not start even though the engine is working perfectly (after all, we can't be late to work again), we do not usually stop to think that maybe it didn't start right away because if it had, we would have run over that little boy who that we didn't see at first. Or maybe if it had started right away, we would have been in a car accident at that intersection the city has not fixed yet. We do not see the big picture--God does. He sees where each of our actions will lead and the inherent consequences. Sure, he does things that may frustrate us now, but it will make sense eventually (maybe not in this life). My dad had several visions when he was younger, but one in particular is relevant to this post. In his vision (keep in mind that he was driving at the time he was taken into this vision, and he drove several miles perfectly safely--I believe an angel had control of the wheel whilst my dad and God had a heart-to-heart), Dad was in space with God. They were looking down at the planet and everything that was going on. God allowed Dad a glimpse at the Master Plan (sorry to be so cliche, but this is the only way I know how to put it)--just a glimpse. Dad saw all of history and everything that had ever happened. He saw all that were happening in the present, and everything that would happen in the future. He saw how everything intertwined for the glory of God. Of course he remembered nothing specific about such happenings when he finally came to (believe me, if he remembered winning lottery numbers, we would not have been so poor when I was a child). The one thing he did remember, and still succombs to awe about every time he talks about it, was that the plan was PERFECT. It was perfectly designed by a perfect Creator for the maximum harvest of souls. Everything had to happen as it did and will. Maybe we get angry because four people died in a tornado, but how many people were brought closer to God, or even got saved, because of what they saw during said tornado? Everyone has a time to die. I think it is about time people realized that death is nothing to be afraid of, but that is a topic for a different thread.

I have had this discussion with several people: about whether or not it is okay to be angry with God. I have come to two major conclusions:

1. Even Jesus got angry.
  • Many people have tried to make the argument that anger is a sin. I would argue that it is not. After all, the only perfect person/diety to ever walk the face of the planet got angry sometimes. He was angered by the Pharisees who were so caught up in rules that they lost focus on God. He got so angry when he found money changers doing business in the temple, that he made a whip and drove them out (John 2: 12-17)! No one can tell me anger is a sin--Jesus was angry. It is what anger leads to if mismanaged that is sinful. Mismanaged anger leads to jealously, greed, abuse, lust, murder, etc.
2. Honesty is always the best policy.
  • I have been angry at God--I have lived through things no human should ever have to endure. I have watched people go through circumstances that are just plain inhuman. I have felt the pain of the suffering/dying in other countries. I was angry that my childhood was cut short by circumstances beyond my control. I was angry at the actions of people close to me who I thought were trustworthy (there is a reason the Bible says to trust no flesh). I harbored this anger for a very long time--almost a decade. It was eating ulcers in my spiritual stomach. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore: I went to a prayer meeting at the church I was attending at the time. There I cried while spilling my figurative guts out to the three people sitting there trying to figure out how to pray for me. A woman there said something I have never been able to forget: "You can be honest with God about how you feel--he is big enough to handle it." I realized that as angry as I was with God, I had tried to hide it from him. I had thought that a good little Christian couldn't be angry at the one she worships and had very successfully bottled my anger up until it reached the breaking point. You can read the entire Bible and not find a single verse saying "thou shalt not be angry at God." Rather, I keep seeing examples of people being angry, being honest about it, and God either showing them the ultimate picture or changing them so they could handle it (King David, Paul). The Bible is constantly saying to be honest, that liars are people to be avoided. It is no use trying to lie to God--he already knows the truth. He already knows when we are angry at him. It is up to us to be honest with him about it (and in doing so be honest with ourselves about that anger), do our screaming, and move past it and heal.
We cannot forget that much of our anger at God could have been avoided were it not for original sin. Humankind was in a location that was utterly perfect and at peace, and we screwed it all up. Don't go blaming just Eve, Adam played a part too. Now it is up to us to play a part in dealing with the anger we sometimes have with the Creator.

What was the point of this post? In my own long-winded, detail-oriented way I was trying to share that anger is okay, as long as it is managed properly, and that God wants his children to be honest with him (as any parent does). Once I realized that, my relationship with God got a lot better. Being honest with God about our frustration does not mean the situation will change, it just means that we will most likely be able to handle it better.

Jan 29, 2009

The Church


"You guys are all into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemas. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too."

I have heard few proclamations in my entire life (granted, I'm only 20, but still) that have hit with as much of an impact as the above quote of a quote from a guy that is found in The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Hmmmm, I wonder if the modern churches have thought about that.

My husband came home yesterday after working at his internship and posed a question I wasn't quite expecting. "Ellie, have you ever seen me cry?" No, I haven't. I quickly wheeled around in my chair to search his face for news of a disaster that I may have missed, especially since he said he cried during most of the drive home from his internship. I have only known the man for three and a half years, but I know that is unlike him. I almost didn't think he could cry. An explanation was soon forthcoming: during his drive, he had seen three homeless people sitting on sidewalks. A depressing sight any day, especially a day at the end of January when the average ambient temperature barely breaks 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The kicker about all of them (or in this case, the tearjerker) was a homeless man who was sitting across the street from a church. A CHURCH!! People nowadays have done such a good job at introducing religion into their relationship with Christ that the church is not doing the job it was put here to do.

Next time you are up for an adventure, try this--deck out in your ratty t-shirt and blue jeans. Now, I'm not saying go roll around in the dirt and tear up your shoes (though that could be interesting), but go to a church you've never been to before in a ratty t-shirt and blue jeans. Watch how the people there treat you. My freshman year at college, I was trying desperately to find a place where I felt comfortable worshiping. I'm extremely sensitive to the spiritual atmosphere of locations, and I was searching for someplace where I saw the fire of Christ in the pastor's eyes and those of his flock. What I found when respectfully attending services in my favorite pair of jeans shocked me. Let's take a step back. Consider for a moment the kinds of clothes Jesus must have worn. He was not physically alive during a time when designer jeans were the vogue, or when one just had to have the newest pair of high-top sneakers. He was not corporeally existing when fashion television shows and magazines made more money in a day than most honest churches do in a decade. He most likely wore robes, and dusty, sweaty ones at that (yeah I know, you don't want to think about the Messiah sweating: he was fully human while being fully divine--I'm sure he knew what it was like to smell of a good day's work). He did not get a shower every day, or every month for that matter. He, just like everyone else living in that time and place, was probably covered in that wonderful layer of grime that five-year-old boys seem perpetually coated in. Keeping all that in mind: people at four out of the five churches I tested looked down long, judgmental noses at a poor college student coming to their service in jeans. Clean jeans at that. How do you think they would have reacted if Jesus appeared in their midst wearing the same clothes he did before he was cruicified for them? Hmmmmmmmmmmm.......

A guy I know used to be an associate pastor at a church somewhere in the Lower 48 (forgive my terminology, I'm from Alaska and anywhere in the US but Alaska and Hawaii is automatically the L48). He told my husband and I about how he decided to teach his congregation a lesson. SO--he matted and rubbed dirt in his hair, wore grimy clothes, and popped the hood of his truck on the side of the road everyone would have to use to get to church (small town). No one stopped to see if he was alright or if they could help. Then he went to the church, walked up to the front of the congregation wearing everything he had wore on the side of the street, and taught the people a little lesson about helping thy neighbor. Funny, huh. Not quite.

So a homeless man was sitting, probably nearly out of his mind from the severe cold, across the street from a church that should have been helping him. How many Christians do you see selling all of their possessions and actually caring for the poor, widowed, and orphaned the way Jesus calls us to? How can one expect them to when the churches are not even doing a good job of this? My heart breaks when going into most churches. When they pass around their gilded collection plates, all I can see are the faces of starving children across the world who could live for a month on the gold plating on those dishes. When I look at stained glass windows, yes they are beautiful, all I can think of is how worldly corruption has stained true Christianity to the point where some people think being a Christian is about going to a fancy building in fancy clothes, singing a few songs, and going home to live their mundane, routine little lives. A fancy building.

I watched part of the 2008 Christmas procession at the Vatican and was in tears later when describing certain parts of it to a friend. I watched an elderly man who I don't trust in the first place (a: The Bible says to trust no flesh, b: I don't like what I see in the current Pope's eyes) carrying a very expensive golden orb thing down the aisle of a gigantic building while wearing an intricately woven outfit and a gem-studded crown. A crown. Who is he that he gets to wear a crown? Jesus says we get our crowns after we go home (aka, die and go to Heaven), and then we get to lay them at his feet. You know the crown the Pope was wearing wasn't cheap, and that the many gems encrusting its sides were not CZs. I almost burst out crying right there because again, all I could see were the faces of starving children all over the world who could eat good, healthy food for a month from the money that ONE of the gems in that crown would bring. I guess the Pope didn't read the article I had read about children in a famine stricken part of Africa who live off of grain they can pick out of the road that fell from merchants trucks. They are eating dusty corn/rice/beans that they can pick off the ground while one old guy wears millions of dollars on his head. Where is the JUSTICE?!? Or the SENSE?!?!

My parents are two people who drive me crazy, but I look up to them in ways they will never know. My brother and I grew up in poverty in the backwoods of Alaska. For three years, my family ate anything non-human that moved around our cabin--bears, moose, porcupines, salmon, birds, etc--because we simply had no money (I don't suggest eating porcupine if you don't have to, it is really greasy and gross). The jobs my parents had been promised if we moved never came to fruition and we were stuck with no money to go back to the Lower 48. God brought us to it, God would keep us alive. Eventually, we got on welfare and lived on less than $17,000 a year, including PFD money (Permanent Fund Dividend: look it up, I don't feel like explaining it here). My parents were experts at squeezing a dime out of a nickel to make ends meet--so good at it, in fact, that I didn't know we were poor until some of my "friends" in town pointed it out. The point I'm trying to get to is this: when I left home for college, there were four portraits hanging on my parents walls. They were not wedding pictures. They were not pictures of my brother and I at kindergarten or high school graduation. They were not pictures of my sister's wedding or her children. They were pictures of the four children my parents sponsored through Christian Children's Fund. Three live in the Phillippines and one lives in Honduras. My parents, people to whom $50 is still a LOT of money, spent $100 dollars every month so those kids could eat, go to school, and live a somewhat human existence. My parents, people who did not have it to give, gave with their palms, hearts, and arms wide open.