When I was little I collected trading cards. One of my most valuable cards went missing and there were several conclusions to consider. Perhaps I misplaced it. Reasonable. Perhaps someone else misplaced it. Sure. That could happen. Maybe one of our pets ate it. Less likely, but not impossible.
I didn't pick any of these options. I chose to beleive my little brother had stolen it and I accused him to his face. It got a bit out of hand and the case was elevated to Supreme Court (Mom).
"Joshua, how do you know he took it?"
"I just do!"
"Guilty until proven innocent? That's not how it works."
My eleven-year-old self didn't like it, but I had no facts, no hard evidence to back my claim. So I had to back off.
Of course it did turn up (under the bed, if memory serves). And I made my brother out to be a demon. I imputed a narrative onto the situation that wasn't even close to true. Felt true. But wasn't.
See, for better or worse, we humans are prone to grab at a story even if there isn't one. Story is an ancient art form and still generates massive revenue today (think about it: Hollywood movies and New York Times best sellers are driven by story). It's the lens through which we view everything.
If we dig deep we find we're drawn to noble themes like sacrificial love, good triumphing over evil, self-realization. But like I learned when I was eleven, this wiring often goes wrong (I.e. "I bet that executive is sleeping with the secretary" or "he likes me he just doesn't know it yet")
But this tendency takes on a whole new level of destruction when we apply it to our theology.
Bum bum bum.
I don't know why, but by nature we tend to choose an innacurate story of God. I mean, do you wake in the morning looking at the ceiling thinking "I can see how all the pain in the world equals a loving God. Mmmm he loves me. What a good pop."
Yeah, me either. Somehow the natural drift is something more to the effect of "God is probably upset with me for something I did… I'm not exactly sure what. If he's going to interrupt at any point it will probably be to punish me or at least let me know I did something wrong. Or maybe he's just not going to do anything at all…. that Way Up There Guy…"
Could be just me.
I confess it takes work, the swimming-up-stream kind of work, to grab ahold of a truth like:
"God is in the midst or a restorative work in my heart, which he cares about. The same energy that's causing the universe to expand and holding atoms together is conspiring to redeem every bit of who I am."
See, if I tell myself THAT narrative when I wake up I'll forget by lunch. No, before I go downstairs and brush my teeth.
So this will take effort, but it's worth it. Because if you can get this story correct, then it will color all of what you do.
Here's three batches of opposing narratives. I'm not telling you which to pick (just be reminded that for some reason positive narratives of God are tough to hold on to and you'll probably have to remind yourself ten times a day).
a) God has some problem with me. He'd rather stay far and removed from me.
b) God sees all of me, flaws included. He goes towards me still. It's my ability to understand and receive his love that needs tweaking. He's patient and commited to that process. He's nearer than the air around me.
a) The terror in the world proves that God doesn't care.
b) God has purposely allowed tention in the world which costs him and humans dearly. He is redeeming it all.
a) God made a bunch of rules that are dumb and cramp my style. Doing what I want is way cooler.
b) God has the manual to the universe and the human heart because he made them both. If I want to live fully he can show me how. Even the limits he sets lead to life.
Okay! One more because I'm on a role.
a) God is just like my dad.
b) The good stuff my dad did helps me see God. Also, God was present and wept every time I experienced abuse or neglect from my earthly dad. God is the Perfect Father.
God show me your story, help me see it. Sometimes when I look around it seems like you suck, so please show me to be wrong in those areas. Amen.