Wednesday, September 15, 2010

El Shaddai

A fellow blogger has inspired me to examine some of my thoughts in regards to God, faith, and what it all means to me. This is my reflection.

Religion is not something I have ever acknowledged as part of my life. Sure, I "grew up in the Church." My family has a long-standing faith practice and we observe the Christian calendar. Despite all the outwardly appearances, nothing makes my skin crawl more than being referred to as "religious." 

For me, it has never been about the meal time prayers, church attendance, Bible study groups, or do-gooded-ness that seems to scream "Religious!" for most people. Religion is something you do, but is not something you feel. I have no room in my life for religion.

My "religion" has always been about relationship and my actions pour out from that place - a personal relationship with the Messiah and relationship with humanity. I have shared before that I am finding my way back to that place of peace that I have when I am secure in my relationship with Christ.

When confronted with the possibility that there is not an all-loving god I had a very strong gut reaction. After several classes with Dr. Ben Anderson-Nathe, I have learned to delve into what value system is causing that reaction. So, I explored those feelings...

After a couple days of mulling, I think what I read, "I thoroughly reject any possibility of an all-loving god," and where I went with that, "God is/does not love," was the root of my reaction.

*Warning: I will now dive down a rabbit hole that has little connection, except in my head, to the subject at hand...*

I have a deep appreciation for the Hebrew language, especially the names for God. Jehovah-Shalom, The LORD our peace. Adonai, Lord. Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide. These names hold meaning for me. What I did not find in the list of 60+ names was "God of Love" or "All-loving God."

*Popping back from the rabbit hole now..."

The conclusion I came to is my God is not all-loving. All-loving limits the grace and power I have felt. My God loves, but also extends free-will. Free will is a beautiful, wonderful, and in some ways tragic concept.

God extends free-will to all of humanity. It is because of this gift disaster and tragedy reigns seemingly unchecked. This concept has always made sense to me on a level I can't explain in words. I believe God has a perfect plan for each of us, but we have the choice to lean on Him and be sensitive to direction or try and go it alone. Going it alone has never worked out well for me.

Love, as I define it, would not step in to prevent mistakes. That is part of the tragedy of free-will. Sometimes, in our humanity, we commit heinous acts against our fellow brothers. My heart breaks for every tragedy and hurt I am exposed to - be it mine or someone else's. I believe the Father's heart breaks even more. I don't believe God is powerless to stop it, but to do so would be to forfeit our free-will. A little known (and slightly irritating) band, Lost & Found, has a beautiful song illustrating this conflict... (sorry, I couldn't find audio.)

Ever since you went away, I have been watching night and day. Oh I could have made you stay, but it would not be love that way... You have always been free and always a part of me.What was I supposed to do? I would not put chains on you.

Some see that as weakness. Why not stop all the evil if you have the power to? That time is coming, but it is not now. Now we live in a broken world, but I see the love and grace of the Father in (almost) all of it.

It's in the words of the young mother who came home from delivery empty handed and brokenhearted, but a year into her mourning said, "This I know, God is not in the sky. I have felt Him."

It's in the face of the teen reaching out to help an old man who recently lost his wife. In the smile of strangers. In the hugs of friends. It's in every act of kindness that is poured out when our neighbors near and far suffer.

Most of all, I feel that grace and love in every fiber of my being in those moments I slow down. My life is testament and I need look no further than the people I have been blessed to share this life with to see that love and grace in action.

My God may not be all-loving, but He is El Shaddai, God All-Sufficient.


Megan said...

I love your explanation. I agree with you in your definition of religion - One of my favorite quotes is that "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love"

Your blog today was thought provoking and moving. Loved it. :)

Aki Mori said...

I loved this entry. More than any I've ever read of yours. I felt something very emotional. I'm at work, so I need to re-read it again when I get home. Thank you!