I’m reading a book for my Homiletics class (Homiletics is a fancy way of describing preaching. We need big words for simple things sometimes) called The Preaching Life, by Barbara Brown Taylor. The opening of the book is a description of a trip to a church in Eastern Europe, one of the places Paul visited in his ministry and was seeing great fruit, but that today has seen a huge drop off in faith involvement. She was taking a tour of the countryside and came across a ruin of an abandoned cathedral that the woods had grown up into and almost completely taken over.
She told this story to frame the idea of the disillusionment that many experience in the Christian experience. Many times people are a part of the church and get ideas of what following God means for them. When God doesn’t meet the expectations that people set out in front of them, they leave. I completely identified with the story she was telling.
When I was just out of college, I had a very distinct idea of what my life was going to look like. I was going to be an elementary school teacher, get married pretty soon, and settle down. I thanked God for his goodness in blessing my life and was excited about walking with him in this new stage. Then the bottom fell out. My very serious relationship at the time completely imploded and I was left with the only question of, “Why God?” I raged, I wept, I struggled to find meaning in something that made absolutely no sense to me. I stopped going to church and I had no interest in dealing with God at the time.
I thank God now because even in that time of disillusionment and doubt, I had the tiniest glimmer of hope that things would get better and God would still be good. In that dark time, I may have walked through darkness, but in many ways it was because my perception of who God was wasn’t accurate. When that image came under attack by my circumstances, I recoiled to protect what I thought God to be. When that was proved false, I was sent reeling and left to reconstruct how I understand God to work. The author of the book I’m reading put it very nicely and I wanted to share:
What has been lost gradually becomes less important than what is to be found. Curiosity pokes its green head up through the asphalt of grief, and fear of the unknown takes on an element of wonder as the disillusioned turn away from the God who was supposed to be in order to seek the God who is. Every letdown becomes a lesson and a lure. Did God fail to come when I called? Then perhaps God is not a minion. So who is God? Did God fail to punish my adversary? Then perhaps God is not a policeman. So who is God? Did God fail to make everything turn out all right? Then perhaps God is not a fixer. So who is God?
Over and over, my disappointments draw me deeper into the mystery of God’s being and doing. Every time God declines to meet my expectations, another of my idols is exposed. Another curtain is drawn back so that I can see what I have propped up in God’s place–no, that is not God, so who is God?
So in my life, I’m keeping an eye on my expectations and looking to see when one of my idols comes crashing down to make sure that when it does, I’m ready to see if I have an opportunity to see God more clearly.