After Sunday’s talk at church, I thought I’d hit a plateau on this journey. I found myself talking to my sister afterward saying, “I know where I’m at, I felt like I’ve processed as much as I can at this stage, and have found level ground for my feet to talk upon going forward.” How wrong I was. Because then, the rug got swept out from under my feet, and I found myself face first in humble pie.
Reason being — I’ve found that I sneakily started back into magical thinking. I caught myself in a hushed interior whisper saying, “God, I owned my life circumstance in front of a group of people, I’ve declared I’m hanging in there with you no matter what — so when are you going to deliver?”
Thought I was done with that part of my journey, but the bargaining stage of grief is back in full force. And I know it’s crazy, and I know its not really how God works. But, it’s so very appealing for me right now.
But, I should back up a bit. What do I mean by magical thinking? Basically, thinking if I do this, then God will give me something (in my case– a full-term pregnancy). And it also, for me, kind of looks like negotiation. God, I’ll do this for you, if you’ll do this one thing for me.
Miroslav Volf discusses this in his essay “You Can’t Deal with God” from Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities. He brings up Antonio Salieri from the movie Amadeus; this guy does the thing I’m striving so hard not to do. God give me this, and I’ll do this for you. Volf’s closing note about Salieri is one of things I’m afraid of (and one of the reasons why I think bargaining is so dangerous).
He writes, “In Amadeus, Salieri ends up a bitter old man, angry at God, angry at the world, angry at himself.. The entire course of his life rested on the deal he thought he’d made with God. God proved to be, as he put it, ‘wicked,’ in giving him ‘thirty-two years of meaningless fame’ only to thrust him into permanent oblivion. But in fact no deal had been made between them. Salieri had made a proposition to God as he was kneeling at the cross, but God didn’t take him up on it (pg 8).”
He goes on to note, “Because God hanging on the cross for the salvation of the world is not a negotiating God. On the cross, God is not setting up the terms of a contract that humanity needs to fulfill. God isn’t saying: ‘I died for you, now you’ve got to do what I tell you to do.’ Instead, God is giving God’s own self so that humanity may have life, and life abundant. God is not a negotiator. God is a giver.”
I read this essay last week before my talk and found it awesome. Today I don’t like it. I’m frustrated by it. It doesn’t offer me comfort. I don’t like it because it hits home for me. Here again, I’m confronted with a God who circumvents my expectations. Today, with my sneaky interior whisper, I wanted a God who gives me what I want; a God who owes me something. Not to love the God who has already given me himself.
I’m reminded of Delta Rae’s song “If I Loved You.” There’s a line in the chorus, “but I don’t love you, not like I want to.” And today, that’s where I am at. I don’t say that as glorification or as a way to be, but as confession. I’m recognizing that I have not loved God. Not as I ought, not as I wish. This is something that I hope changes as I continue to eat humble pie.