Back in high school I had a life-defining moment when the Living Christ connected with me in a way that assured me of God’s love and interest in me. The Apostle Paul calls this an adoption and that I was now in the forever family of the Divine Trinity, God, Spirit, Son.
I understood nothing of that at the time. I knew only this; Something in the core of who I was had changed. Somehow I grasped that my life, even as it just started out, was no longer my own. I was initially exhilarated in a way I’ve rarely experienced since. I felt it. I basked in it. Love. Belonging. Peace. I didn’t know what my “purpose” or “calling” was, but I knew I had one.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
It’s thrilling to be young and lost and angry and then suddenly to be found and loved and hopeful. I had a purpose. Whew. I felt joy. But I also felt this nagging toothache type of irritation in my quieter moments when the same thought–I had a purpose, my life was not own–washed over into a slightly different point of view: What the hell did I just go? My life IS NOT my own, I thought with a panic.
I nearly fled. In my mind I pulled it off. I retracted my sign-up form. Only it didn’t take. I wanted my life, but I couldn’t change that experience. I couldn’t un-know the God I now knew.
Me and God go way back, right back to this moment in time on Sept. 21, 1983: the date of my adoption and few days later when my first rebellious panic threatened to erase the best spiritual experience of my life. Since that time, this odd, discordant mix of commitment and escape have continued. I have lived in ways completely counter to my faith, but I did so ever mindful that I was doing exactly that. I chated on God to be sure, but I never wholly divorced God. For reasons that still surprise me, I am confident God didn’t divorce me.
Like Huey Lewis sang, “I’m happy to be stuck with you.” At times I don’t think either of us were all that happy, but we both somehow agreed we were stuck.
In this way, my relationship with God is the single most enduring relationship I’ve ever had. It’s also the most consuming. It challenges my thoughts about colors everything I do. It changes how I see the world and how I use my time and how I think about the ways I use my time and how I feel about myself. If my life is not my own, then how am I living it when compared to the future God imagined for me?
More than three decades later and deeper into the throes of this turbulent love affair, I find myself still in panic at times over the all-consuming nature of God. She refuses to be cordoned off to spaces I want her to be. Like water over-running its banks, God floods and saturates me. I am soggy with the presence of God.
So why do I still at times feel so distant from God? Why does my heart for as dry as the dessert? More to the point, why do I still ponder a divorce from time to time?
I confess I ask myself this question more than I’d like to admit: What would I do with my life if I could live it on my own, apart from the standard, hope and future of God’s plans?
Flight is my great neurosis. Not fear of it, but lust for it, as in escape, as in withdrawal, as in going far away to live a life focused only on myself. The thought of screw the world, screw others, screw God can a delicious temptation.
So what if there was no God? What if I was wrong way back then. What the hell does a teenager know anyway? What if all there has been or ever will be is me until the day I am so-called “food for worms” and nothing more. How would I redirect if given the chance to navigate the course of my life?
in fifteen minutes of reflection on specifics I came up with this: Nothing. The two things I might do, flee and drink, are in the end so destructive I doubt even if left to my own devices I’d choose them, because I know if this is all the life I have and there is no life on the other side, I’m not wasting any more of it drunk, alone and purposeless. How strange the knowledge that the things I do now are the things I’d chose to do tomorrow if I decided to divorce God altogether.
It’s not my life, but it is. My life continues to evolve into the one God had in mind all the time. That flooding presence of God is so saturating I can no longer tell the difference between His plan and mine, which I suspect has been the point all along.