The biggest lie the enemy sells us is that God is indifferent. I heard Jonathan Osteen, the 24-year-old grandson and son of Pastor John Osteen and Pastor Joel Osteen respectively, preach this in a Father’s Day message earlier this year on the podcast. It rattled me to hear him say that because my falling away had been as a result of concluding that we indeed serve an indifferent God. I was surprised to learn that I am not the only one that had fallen for the lie, that there were others too, that there was nothing original about the enemy, that he always recycles the same lies to the hapless, the undiscerning.
Like I said in a previous post, I have never doubted that God existed and that he created the heavens and the earth and every living thing in it. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. As a family, we grew up Catholic with my dad as an elder at the Parish Council and my mama as our Sunday school catechism teacher; needless to say, the discipline was strong. We later became Charismatic Catholics as we pursued a deeper walk of faith, eventually transitioning fully into spirit-filled non-denominational churches as my parent’s faith in God deepened. I watched my father walk with God all the days of His life until his appointed days were over and God called him back to heaven. I’ve seen my mum pursue God in her daily walk, even earning a Bachelors’ degree in Theology, being ordained a bishop, and sacrificially opening churches, all for the glory of God.
I flash back to the year 2006 when I came to the conclusion that God was indifferent to the finer details of our lives. I had sought Him individually (apart from my parents) for about eight years by then. It was a fruitless walk that resulted in no transformation within me whatsoever even though I spend hours poring over His word and learning about Him. I was involved with some type of church activity six out of seven days of the week; youth meetings on Mondays, choir practice on Tuesdays and Saturdays, mid-week service on Wednesdays, night vigils on Fridays, and all-day church on Sundays. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed” Jesus told Martha in Luke 10:41. That one thing that Mary had chosen and it would not be taken from her, that one thing would elude me and I would remain flailing about from one church activity to the next, attending conferences and crusades to no avail. While the God the church preached was characterized as merciful, in the practical, his representation was that of a harsh unyielding God. There was no structure or framework in the church within which to nurture and fortify new believers into the doctrines and principles of the faith, there was only the busyness of ministry.
Still, this busyness kept me from all kinds of mischief and I can never regret taking refuge in the house of the Lord. “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord” Psalm 122:1 KJV. I remember being keenly aware that the devil was on the prowl. My marriage to my son’s biological father had ended in abandonment after a dismal 2 years, and I was receiving all kinds of indecent proposals, even from our mutual familiar friends. I knew what desperation could do to people as I had observed a few of my friends scatter their lives on the heels of divorce. I did not want the same fate to befall me, and I had my precious son, who was barely a year old, to consider and maintain both his and my integrity. I was acutely aware of the devil eyeing me, sizing me up, roaring about; one wrong move and he would pounce and devour me. Within months, I had run to my Father’s House and taken refuge there, hidden away in his holiness, safe from the roaring enemy. “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes…the Lord is good; He protects his people in times of trouble; He takes care of those who turn to Him” – Nahum 1:7.
As the days turned to weeks, months, then years, I went to church every day, dragging my toddler son along with me. Wounded and terribly heartbroken, I sat in church week after week, month after month, year after year, seeking a closer walk with God. Even as an undergrad, studying for my bachelor’s degree in accounting, I studied scripture more than I studied my finance curriculum. I pored over the Bible daily, making use of the NIV study Bible along with the Concordance to cross-reference verses. I successfully undertook studying the Bible cover-to-cover in search of the knowledge of God. How does the bible put it? “…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of Truth.” 2 Timothy 3:6-7. Or in John 5:39-40 “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”
There really was no transformation in me, no growth in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God, as provided by Jesus’ blueprint for spiritual growth in Luke 2:52. I remained fearful, doubtful, angry even, disappointed, confused, dejected, rejected, abandoned, hurt, bleeding, and spiritually directionless. Week after week, I hobbled into church and sang praises to the King of Kings, at one point, leading the worship, composing songs to sing in church, and even translating the preaching from French to English up on the podium alongside the pastor. I kept a copious amount of sermon notes, volumes upon volumes filled with insights and learnings; and yet, to the best of my recollection, I don’t believe I ever made a heart-connection with my maker. The head knowledge didn’t drop to the heart. There was no knowing, only searching. My walk felt pointless, and I felt lost and disoriented, aimlessly wandering about in the desert wilderness with no clearly-defined destination except for the avoidance of hellfire and brimstone and a promise of gold-paved streets in heaven. ‘How could that be what it was all about?!’, I often wondered, privately ashamed at my dissatisfaction, as I sat quietly in the church pews each new week.
Being religious, I suffered great self-condemnation from my failed marriage. From my Catholic upbringing I knew that it would conclude one of two ways: either we be reconciled, or that I remain unmarried as per Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians 7:11 “If a married woman is separated from her husband, she has two options: (1) to “remain unmarried” to anyone else or (2) to be reconciled to her husband. Since I didn’t know that one could pray for reconciliation, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t even in an environment where that was encouraged, I simply resolved to do nothing, thus remain unmarried. As a result, I sort of just existed, living a life that I was emotionally disconnected from.
It never once occurred to me that intimacy with the Lord was something to be sought after. I mean, he was God and God is to be feared, to be revered. For God’s sakes, he was all the way up there in heaven!! I remember many vigil nights spent crying, knocking on heaven’s door, all to naught. I was in limbo and I wanted it to end, but I neither knew how to bring that about, nor how to talk to God in heaven about it. I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted to happen so I prayed aimlessly, haphazardly, distractedly. Sticking around just to avoid hell is not a very compelling strategy, and quite frankly the prospect of spending eternity bowing down to the throne of God while crying ‘Holy! Holy! Holy!’ along with the angels for a thousand years wasn’t appealing by any stretch of the imagination; I couldn’t think of a more absurd incentive! I haven’t a clue what it was I was chasing after. Still, the bitterness of unanswered prayers began to encrust my heart. Why me? Why not me? When will it be my turn? Why won’t God answer? Does He listen? Doesn’t He care? Hope deferred makes the heart sick… (Proverbs 13:12).
I cannot underestimate the importance of pursuing intimacy with God upon salvation, it’s an aspect of Christianity that has escaped me until this new season of my life. I am now learning that seeking intimacy with God is very much a thing that is done, even expected by none other than God himself!! I am also learning that unless we have an encounter with God, we cannot walk intimately with him. That we can know of God and not know God. I’ll write more about these new revelations in a future post. I now also know that silence is one of God’s most effective languages, communicating that the training is ongoing; it signals to press in, to get knowledge, to get understanding. In all your getting, get understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Yet that is what I thought I was doing all along, why wasn’t it working?! I had spent nearly a decade of my life striving to find a Father that seemed distant, silent and aloof to me. In my experience then, He had only spoken once when things were dire at a life-or-death crossroads. That aside, He was mostly disapproving and possibly even waiting to clock me upside the head with a huge mallet to enforce obedience on my part should I falter.
LEGALISM: a practice whereby the broad, inclusive and general precepts of the Bible is reduced to narrow and rigid moral codes. Legalism focuses on God’s laws more than relationship with God. It keeps external laws without a truly submitted heart. Source – christianity.com
The Deception Deepens
Even with an extremely nurturing, loving and forgiving earthly father, I always thought my heavenly Father was disapproving and unforgiving, yet still somehow good. I could never permit myself to think of God as not good. Of-course he was good, He had to be. After all, He was God, and God is good, I reasoned. And so, after almost a decade of a futile search, I concluded that while God is unquestionably good, he just did not care about the things I was praying about, that He was just not concerned about the mundane details of our wretched lives. That His part was to save our souls, which to His credit He had done, and those other parts were up to us to figure out! I can still feel the relief that washed over me when I found a way to explain away the incongruency and reconcile the cognitive dissonance. Oh, how foolish of me to have spent all these years waiting on God to direct my path when it was really up to me to choose a path and make my life as I saw pleasing. What a relief to finally figure out the reason for the years of closed heavens! I stopped trusting and waiting, eventually gingerly venturing out into the world to make my way through life best I knew how. Soon, like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), I was squandering my inheritance of salvation out in the far country, fellowshipping with the pigs, rolling in the mud in the pigsty, making a mess and calling it making merriment. There is a way that seems right to a man, but it ends in death (Proverbs 14:12).
Coming from a sheltered Christian home with my goody-two-shoes ways, I did not know the rules of engagement in the pigsty, that no one told the truth, that deception was rampant, that people were cutthroat, selfish and self-indulgent. “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). It wasn’t long before I sustained a casualty that sent me reeling, running back to church, this time attending a large American Church in Waterloo Brussels where nobody knew me as I blended with the masses every Sunday; but the tide had turned and I could never quite find my footing again. I couldn’t find my place. I was getting lost in the crowds of thousands every Sunday, limping along best I could with no guidance or relief from the crushing condemnation gained from my one indiscretion during my brief stint in the pigpen. There is little room for forgiveness (to both self and others) when one is trapped in legalism, compassion remains a foreign concept that’s sparingly practiced, if ever at all.
This Hebrew 10:26-31 verse hounded me: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God… How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?… The Lord will judge his people, and it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Without a personal relationship with God, all you have are the church-folk, and if those relationships are non-existent, weak, or compromised in any way, you will walk away. I didn’t go down without a fight, I held on desperately for as long as I could, clawing and clamoring, readjusting my weight as I felt my hold slipping and sliding. I rejoined the choir and Sunday school, desperately fighting for dear life to hold on to my salvation. No one noticed I was struggling and I didn’t know how to ask for help. Everyone was busy living their lives, everyone was busy serving God, and the pastors were busy pastoring as I slipped through the cracks with a silent scream caught in my throat, choking out the very air I breathed. I held on in this gasping manner for another two years, eventually falling away and quietly sliding into the abyss. (Hebrew 10:27) no sacrifice left… only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire… And that, dear Reader, is how I settled for a good but indifferent God. Enter Mr. Grey not too long thereafter. ღ Ms. Grey ღ