letting God off the hook

kathyescobar featured articles, healing, spiritual formation 40 Comments

i stopped blaming God
this month’s synchroblog is a fun one–it’s called “life unfurling” and is centered on the things that we’ve let go of in our faith along the way and ended up finding freedom.  i have a  bunch of them, but this is the one that came to mind this month.  you can check out the other contributions at the bottom of this post, and i’ll add more as they come in over the course of today.

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when i hurt my back last year and ended up barely being able to move i had some people who said “maybe God is trying to teach you something” (yeah, really helpful).  i did my best to avoid those comments and stick with safe people in my circle–i was definitely desperate for any kind of help i could get and didn’t mind asking for prayer for relief.  one of my more cynical friends said “why would i pray to God to heal you when there are other people sure that he’s doing this to you?”

i don’t agree with him on one level but i see where he’s coming from on another. 

years ago i pretty much blamed God for everything.  really, i had him set up as some kind of puppeteer, controlling the universe, and doing a pretty cruddy job of it i must say.  somehow he was making kids get abused, people starve to death, and yanking jobs right out from underneath people.  he sure made a lot of bad $*!^$(!) happen to me, too. i could go on and on about how ultimately i had a theology that was set up around putting God on the hook for absolutely everything. i remember a dear friend bringing this to light one time when he called out the moments we say things like “oh, i almost got in an accident but God protected us, if we would have been one car closer, we would have been toast, we are so blessed” without thinking through the person-who-did-crash’s intersection with definitely-not-being-blessed-by-God.

this typical kind of thinking wasn’t that hard to embrace; it really was what most of the teaching i had been hearing for years was centered around–God does this, does that, wants this, likes that, doesn’t like this, and really does that.  everything in the universe pretty much somehow stemmed from his direct doing.

i was letting go of this for quite a few years (working in recovery ministry really helped me re-think so many things about God) but it all came to a head about 5+ years ago when i saw the ministry i had poured myself into thrive while i got the crap kicked out of me.  i didn’t understand it, why God would “allow” that kind of stuff to happen and somehow he must be punishing me and blessing them.  umm, yeah, then i realized how self-centered and forming-God-to-think-just-like-me that really is.  i had this weird shift that came over the next few years where i let God off the hook and put responsibility where responsibility lies–with people & with real human life here on this broken earth.

people hurt people.  people use people. people abuse people.  people do a crappy job of loving other people. people build stuff that i disagree with but other people love.  people are flawed.  and i am one of those people, too.

in the same way, there is sickness, death, pain, and brokenness in this one precious, real life we have to live. backs break. cancer forms. jobs disappear. weird unexpected twists happen in our journey that we would have never dreamed of.

the shift that happened in me is that i am trying to let go of blaming God for everything that happens here. sure, i am annoyed that often oppression seems like it’s winning, people are hurt in all kinds of horrible ways, and life can be painfully brutal.  but i don’t think God’s up there orchestrating it all.

the thing that i think God promises is to be with us in the muck and the mire.

and that love & hope & peace & joy & freedom are still available now, in the midst of all the stuff we wish wasn’t happening.

it’s helped me a lot to let God off the hook. it’s also rocked my world because God was such an easy scapegoat.  now, without that, i am left in the tension of so many “i don’t knows” and “yeah, that really sucks” and “you’ve got to be *#&!^!*!’ing kidding me’s”. the mystery of God-at-work-in-a-wild-and-broken-world continues to amaze me.  and confuse me. but i don’t think i am supposed to have it all figured out. yeah, letting go of blaming God has helped me free me, free God, free having-to-have-it-all-have-to-make-perfect-sense-when-it-really-never-does.  i don’t have to make God make sense to me in order to trust God.

what about you, what are you letting go of and finding freedom in when it comes to faith?

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ps: i wrote a little post for the refuge blog from our saturday evening conversation at the refuge & the story of hosea & how hard it is to receive God’s love. it’s called always running.

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life unfurling for other synchrobloggers so far (more coming):