Big Questions of Life: Relating with God
Relative to relationships
In part 1 I shared thoughts on logic and faith in God. Now let's consider what relationship we might have with the Creator.
As already said, logic can bring us only so far in understanding God. Deeper knowledge requires a relationship with Him.
So what does the seeker do?
Surely the "logical" first step in seeking relationship with an invisible God is a tentative mixture of assumption, sincerity and humility:
After acknowledging that God must exist, see part 1, it must be assumed he wants to be found (a reasonable assumption we may address in another hub). Further, it must be accepted that finding him requires his help if not his acquiesce, and therefore we are left with only one sensible option - we ask him for directions -- I.e.: We Pray.
We ask for his help in getting to know him, in forming a relationship.
Relating with God
What, though, is meant in having a relationship with the Creator?
The only relationship reference I can draw from are those I experience as a human; with other people. What then do I seek in a relationship with other people? For myself I think the list might look something like this >>>
However, when speaking of God, I think it safe to assume that a relationship won't be based on mutual need. Although wanting a relationship with me, he does not need such relationship; after all my existence depends on him, not visa versa.
Note: Some will object to the concept of man needing God; no doubt the same that will reject there is a God. Of course, that must be the order of things. Accurately identifying our needs first requires correctly identifying our origin and purpose.
Note2: It is also possible that we have needs we mightn't be aware of. Needs revealed and fulfilled only in relationship with God; needs fundamental to our (eternal) existence.
That said, what then might the Creator want from a relationship with you and I?
That is the Question.
Finding God. The soul-quest of billions since the beginning of time.
The motives have varied and the means ranged from tragic to comical, but such fervent religiosity has accumulated vast tomes of advice on the subject of finding God, via almost every means imaginable.
Therefore, from the outset, seeking God sets one on a path strewn with questions and choices that will challenge character, morals and endurance; as well as our most treasured beliefs. Equally perilous, it can lead in opposite direction to the accepted social or cultural norm.
Also, seeking God doesn't guarantee arriving at the same destination as others professing to do the same, and -the ultimate irony- many who started seeking God, ultimately find themselves stranded, at the end, in a place far removed from anything one might call godly.
It would seem, then, that there are risks associated with seeking this one we call God.
But are they greater than the risk of not seeking him?
Surely the two greatest motives for endeavor are
- The reward of attaining, and/or,
- The hazard of not...
Regarding reward, you cannot argue with the millions who have found great resources of peace and joy in their pursuit of God.
Regarding the hazard, they fall under several considerations:
- In failing to relate to God, will my life be impacted for the worse?
- What will happen to me after death?
The Closed Door
For the one who has accepted there is a God, determined he is knowable and set out to develop a relationship with him, the challenges can seem insurmountable, even unfair; after all:
- If God wants relationship, why not make his presence more obvious?
- Why not make his invitation for relationship clearer; an unmistakable divine revelation perhaps?
- Why allow us to become so confused with options (ideologies, philosophies, religions etc)?
However, wishing doesn't make it so; much like the illogic of concluding that ‘bad things’ existing denote that a maker does not. If we accept that God is, then, being God, he does things his way, not ours. And do we really think we know better than the creator?
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
The Bible - Deuteronomy 4:29
Therefore we are left to seek God on his terms, not ours, and this, no doubt, requires diligence, humility and sincerity.
But this very dilemma (Gods seeming distance) may hold one small key to a door leading in the right direction.
The Key Question
Opposites attract. A well known fact. However, equally true is that opposites repel. The later truth adding layers to complexity when seeking to develop relationships.
For most people there is both an attraction toward God and a repulsion from him. We might be attracted by his power and mystery, yet repelled by the idea of obeisance or submission to his will. Or, we might be attracted by the beauty of his creation, but repelled in fear by the power of such a being. Any number of reasons may tempt us to flee seeking relationship with God.
Yet, have we stopped to think that the very same conundrum confronts God? That he is both attracted and repulsed by us.
"But why?" one might ask. And that is a very good question from which to start.
What is it about mankind that is repulsive? What is it about us that would keep God at a distance? Or maybe better put, us at a distance from God?
God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one! [The Bible - Psalm 53:2-3]
Seeing the Flaw
Have you ever been repulsed by the behavior or attitude of another person, maybe even of yourself?
One does not have to live long to realise something is flawed in mankind, and this, to varying degrees, is generally accepted as part and parcel of the human experience.
However, have we stopped to consider God's view of us, or our behaviour at least?
Is he repulsed?
Is repulsed too strong a word? Alright. Offended then? Do we offend God?
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
The Bible - Isaiah 59:1-2
Our capacity to hate & hurt, covet & envy, lust & steal, lie & cheat is accepted as part of being human, while equally recognised as the core of our many and varied relationship problems (whether between two individuals, groups or even countries).
Why then should it not be a problem when seeking relationship with God?
Why wouldn't he be repulsed?
Which of the following have you ever wished for
It's an odd concept, a creator offended by their creation; after all, why create something if you know it will offend you?
But maybe we over-simplify in thinking that way.
Could it be that God's plan in creating man incorporated a designed risk factor that allowed for things discordant to his will [even offensive], but provided for them nonetheless; an overarching plan, anticipatory and resolving of all contingencies.
If we cannot even comprehend how God managed to create us, maybe we should not be surprised that the complexities of WHY he should do so also escapes us.
Also, when we consider the multi layered complexity of human beings, how much more inexplicable must be the inscrutable nature, thoughts and purposes of God?
However, whatever we accept as true about him, it must to some degree at least answer the question of why; why, it seems, he is so distant and hard to find.
Acknowledging our fault
By-and-large we all acknowledge that we have said and done wrong things; though many will stop short of calling them evil, wicked or sinful. Yet regardless of our concession, guilt is a universal experience.
And why do we feel guilt?
Although captives to this world with it's rules and limits, we also know we are free. Free to daily make choices. Choices free of, if we so choose, God's influence. Choices we frequently regret; and some that utterly shame us.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’. [Jesus said] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [The Bible - Luke 18:13-14]
Quite possibly, of all mankind's faults, the most damaging is his unwillingness to acknowledge and forsake them.
Confession, apology, repentance; hardly coveted virtues by most. Some people would sooner die than apologise to those they've wronged, and the lies told to cover-up or play-down a sin weigh heavy upon many a conscience.
Humility is essential for any successful relationship; and no more so then when we know we are at fault.
How many relationships have been restored because the wrongdoer apologised; how many burnt because they didn't.
Possibly, then, the greatest hurdle man faces in entering into a relationship with God is the honesty with which he presents himself before Him; his willingness to admit his flaws and repent of them.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. [The Bible - James 4:8-10]