I’ve lost count of the conversations I’ve had lately where I’ve chatted with people about our pictures of God. It’s like a theme in my life right now. The picture of God which seems to be dominating the field is God wagging his finger in eternal disappointment with us. Frustrated. Ready to give up or write us off. Like maybe, even though we try, we don’t amount to much in God’s eyes.
And that finger wagging, disapproving god seems a lot like the anxiety monster which lives in my brain. The naysayer. The hater. The you’re never enough voice — not good enough, smart enough, kind enough, or successful enough. The voice expecting everyone to launch missiles at my vulnerable spots.
Here’s what strikes me in all these images: I think they send us running FROM God in the very moments we need to run TOWARD God. Like Adam and Eve feeling shamed by their nakedness (see Genesis 3:7-10), we then want to hide from God. We forget nothing is able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
I wonder if God treats us like my Holy Yoga instructors have treated me. At the end of Holy Yoga class, the instructor walks around and does an adjustment, temple message and anointing on each person there (unless a person doesn’t want to be touched).
Now, here’s the hitch to this: when I work out, I’m not dainty. To my mother’s proclamation “girls glisten rather than sweat,” I cry baloney! At least in my case. I turn beet red with any exertion and always have regardless of my level of fitness. I sweat profusely. I am gross when I work out.
So, typically I am varying levels of mortified by my sweaty, gross self at the end of yoga and feeling shades of guilt and embarrassment that the poor instructor has to touch my nasty soaked head.
But, the moment of anointing is almost always a profound spiritual moment for me. Blessing rolls over me like a cooling, gentle breeze. As I feel most weary, unclean and unworthy of notice, someone is intentionally kind and gracious to me. I’m welcomed even while I’m a disaster.
This is the moment in class that proves to be my undoing if I have grief I’m trying to keep corked. There’s been a couple of times I cried at this point. I lose it at the sheer grace of being welcome when I feel least put together and when my carefully crafted facade is smashed.
I can’t help but wonder if that’s what God wants to do for us as well. To welcome us even at our messiest, weariest and broken places. To be kind to us even as we fear lifting our eyes toward Him in our embarrassment.
Even as I see God raging in disappointment at Israel in the Old Testament, His heart is always for them to turn and come running back to Him. Judgment wasn’t the end goal: restoration of relationship was. Or there’s my dad’s favorite Bible passage, Romans 5:8. “God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were hot messes, God loved us and sent us a way to be welcomed back home.
Maybe at the moment where we’re most disappointed, most tired, most shamed, most vulnerable — maybe that’s an opportunity to wait for God to meet us rather than hiding in the metaphorical bushes ashamed, kicking ourselves and pretending God doesn’t notice us.
I think God wants to welcome us in the moments of our brokenness. And God’s welcome doesn’t mean things don’t need to change in our lives, anymore than my yoga instructor’s kindness means I don’t have to shower at some point after going home. I still have to shower. And there’s still going to be things we need to change. It’s not mere warm fuzzies or fluff.
But I think God’s welcome of our weakness gives us profound power to change. The One who is gentle and kind toward me in my weakness has the ability to transform me. God’s abundant welcome transforms my heart of stone into a loyal heart of flesh.
So, what would it take for us to swap out our wagging finger god for the One who is waiting arms open wide like the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15)? What would change for you if you truly knew you are indeed welcome back home?
The gate is open. May we enter and find solace there.