Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Living with God, without God

In my studies this last semester I ran across a quote from Bonhoeffer that confused me some.  I understood how the quote fit into the bigger movement of history at the time, but not how it would have fit into the life of an actual living worshipful soul.  Here's the quote:

So our coming of age forces us to a true recognition of our situation vis-à-vis God. God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15:34). The God who makes us live in this world without using him as a working hypothesis is the God before whom we are ever standing. Before God and with him we live without God. God allows himself to be edged out of the world and onto the cross. God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is exactly the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us. (Letter of July 16, 1944.)  Source Linked

I think I understand a little more of how Bonhoeffer might have understood the idea now.  Tonight I've been watching a movie while doing the dishes that contrasts a variety of people who do really idiotic things because they are certain that God told them to do it.  They are so desperate for answers that show up right away that they project their own understandings onto God.  When it comes to trying to get revelation that is I think always the easy way out.  To quote another author, Philip Gulley, that I've been reading recently:

When God is the extrapolation of our highest principles, we are seldom challenged to expand our consciousness, which is why the divine in any culture seldom rises above that society's collective morality.

In prayer, its easy to take the first impression that seems apparent and to run with it as a totally reliable source.  When life becomes complicated and we instead of just asking we wrestle with God in prayer- we are still prone to confusion and reverently echo chambering our own desires back at ourselves.  Reviewing the history of the religious ideas that people have felt sure of that their successors later abandoned as ungodly makes this all too obvious.  It can be easy to be frustrated, feeling that we need to take everything based on our own wisdom alone because when you expect God to give you all the answers they never seem satisfactory- or at least not in any complete and total sense that is impregnable to simply changing your perspective over time.

But what if what God wanted all along was for use to figure it out on our own?  What if instead of praying to be given answers we should pray for wisdom and guidance and recognize that our decisions are ultimately our own because God isn't interested in trying to push us into little boxes of perfection in a perfect plan but is instead interested in our growth?

So does God answer prayer?  Of course, but we should be hesitant to take the decisions and impulses we feel during times of reverence and put them in God's mouth because if we make those impulses God's we may fail to own up to our own shortcomings that may be reflected in those thoughts.  We should expect divine strength and guidance- but not an answer key to all of life's decisions.  As the Father expected Christ to endure the Cross in part alone, we should humbly expect to endure this life at least in part on our own wisdom.  We should be like Christ who on the same cross from which he cried "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" could-without divine hand holding- still say "Father forgive them for they know now what they do."

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