Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Changing Conception of God
I have recently reflected upon how our grief following Micah’s death has begun to rid us of certain religious pretenses—certain misconceptions of God that, in light of all that has happened, need to be thrown out. Our conception of how God works, and who He is, has changed by reason of Micah’s death. Before Micah died, we would have pat “Sunday school” answers whenever faced with a potential trauma. Intellectually, I would (wrongly) take comfort in the (false) belief that God’s purpose in difficult personal situations would be to “rescue” me so as to avoid personal discomfort.
In the intervening years since Micah’s death, I think our relationship with God was marked, in large part, by shock. While we have depended wholly on God, we’ve also not really thought a whole lot about leaning on the same God whose kindness and mercy took our son away from us.
Now, as we emerge more and more from the “fog” of shock as part of the grieving process, we ask these questions once again. This time, however, we can’t give the pat “Sunday school” answer any more; not only is this conception of God too superficial, but it just doesn’t work. In speaking with other grieving parents, the result for many of us is a huge intellectual “void” in our lives. We don’t question the existence of God or even that He is involved in our lives. It is that we cannot provide an answer to the deepest, most significant questions in our lives, a question that is at the forefront of the minds of most grieving parents I know. The question, “why did God allow this to happen?” is often met with just silence.
We answer it with a Job-like silence, a silence that (I pray) brings glory and honor to God. We don’t know, and all we can do is keep trusting in Him, changing whatever previous conception we had of God that is demonstrably false. Recently, I’ve tried to encourage myself that having a changing conception of God is a good thing. After all, the Pharisees had a very wrong conception of God, and if the Pharisees had listened to Jesus and become His disciples, their conceptions of God would have been dramatically altered. Job’s conceptions of God changed; certainly the friends of Job who gave him “counsel” had an altered conception of God through Job’s sufferings.The downside, of course, to a changing conception of God is that we can’t control God. I can control a God (or, at least I thought I could) who works to provide me with good things when I want in the manner that I want. For all of us humans who endure suffering, God uses this suffering in our lives to move us beyond the “pat” Sunday School answers to open up our minds to increase our understanding of our Great God, a God whose means are “beyond our tracing out.”