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Imaginary Talks With God

May 29, 2009

I’ve been having a lot of imaginary conversations with God lately. Whether it really is the Holy Spirit or just my own kooky ramblings, I don’t know. I figure it this way — with what I believe to be true about God (that He is love, that He is full of grace etc), this is how I would imagine Him to respond.

I went to a wedding this past weekend, and as I walked into the tent (it was outdoors), an usher asked if it was just me. A polite question, yet of course, I still felt a bit judged for coming alone. With my imaginary insecurity monkey momentarily on my back, I was looking around nervously at everyone else. I wore my really cute new dress from Etsy, and unfortunately, the first question that popped into my head as I glanced around was, “I wonder if anyone will comment on my dress?”

“Who cares, I think you are beautiful. Are you saying someone else’s opinion is more valuable than Mine?”

I knew immediately that it didn’t matter one ounce if anyone else in the entire universe thought I looked nice. What mattered was that as a creation of God, as a woman, I was beautiful. Period. After that, out went the imaginary insecurity monkey, and on I went to enjoy the wedding (and twirling a little in my dress, just because I felt so darn cute).

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(I really do love this dress. My friend Sandra calls it the “walking tulip” dress.)

I was driving around today, running a few errands, and I started thinking how strange this whole faith thing is. We cannot feel or see or hear or touch it in any tangible way, yet we base our entire lives on it. Everything. It suddenly dawned on me that I am banking on something I don’t even understand most of the time.

“I’m God, the Alpha, the Omega. You think you’re going to get to a point where you understand Me? The sky cannot contain me, the entirety of the universe isn’t big enough for who I am. You’re not going to be able to find the end of Me.”

I like to understand things, to categorize them, to put them in a neatly labeled box that I can then stack on a shelf, and check it off my “don’t get it” list. Well…I suppose I’m continually having to accept that there is no box or shelf large enough to contain God, and try as I might to wrap my hands around Him, I can’t.

During these “conversations,” I always get this distinct feeling that God has an impish grin on His face, and is trying not to laugh at me. He knows that I want control, He knows that I want to know everything and feel secure and safe in every single breath and step and word. But He also knows that nothing would be more toxic for me, because it would nullify the need to trust that He’s with me every step, even when I don’t know what those steps are.

“You’re not your own savior, you know, I am. Struggling with Me isn’t going to change that. Believing that you are past the absolute necessity and thirst of grace isn’t going to change the fact that I am the Author of it.”

I sigh, knowing He’s right. But it’s hard, you know? I feel so unbelievably tiny most of the time, trying to figure out where I fit in and what I want to do with my life. I’m a classic overthinker and at times, I simply cross my fingers and hope to snap someday and just go do something crazy, just to get it out of my system and to stop worrying so much.

You know that saying, “Let go, and let God”? I’ve never liked that saying because I think on the whole, it’s kind of crappy advice. Do I need to let go, and believe that God will help me along the way? Yes. Do I need to sit here for the rest of my life, waiting for Him to grab the steering wheel and start the car? Nope. Fact is, while I don’t have the power and control to plan and cleanly execute my life without mistakes, I do have control over some things and those things are what I need to focus on. Most of the time, I’m suffocating myself with all the things that I can’t, and it’s useless.

(Ok, totally wrong for the tone of this entry…but I just can’t help it. I think LOLcats are hilarious.)

“I know all these songs you sing about Me say that I walk beside you, and in a certain way, I do. But I don’t just walk beside you…I carry you. Even being next to you isn’t close enough, I want to wrap My arms around you, I want to protect you, even when it’s from yourself. And guess what…I won’t leave you, I’ll never leave you. Even when it feels like life is crumbling through your fingers like sand and you can’t stop it, I’m still there. Who ever told you that I would leave you? You are my beloved, my bride, the crown of my creation. Where would I go, where would I rather be than with you? I will never, ever leave you. Never.”

I suppose I’ve come to see that He has an answer for every doubt, for every question, for every head scratch, and every frustrated sigh. And He doesn’t always share the answers, either. A lot of the time, in fact, He’s pretty quiet. I don’t think this is out of cruelty but out of the fact that as the Creator of the Universe, He has the “big picture” advantage. I don’t know what the big picture is — I’m lost in details, details, details, and those tend to obscure what the larger view of things is. But still, He has an answer, and is asking me to just trust that. Someday I may come to see it, while sometimes, things may just remain a mystery.

All of this to say that if I ever get to a point where I “figure out” God, then it’s not God who I have anymore. It’s a fake God, a cookie cutter God, one that I can put in that box and stack on that shelf.

And well, the truth is, I don’t want a God like that. Not really. I’d rather have the one that pushes me, that challenges me, that makes me think, and asks me to make decisions even when I feel like all I can do is make mistakes. He asks for action, while the box-on-the-shelf God just sits quietly and still.

Try as I might, He is always breaking out of that box, and then asking me to break out of mine. It’s probably about time that I listened.

*Disclaimer: The first version of this entry was not terribly well-thought out. I want to give a huge thank you to my friend, Stephen, who left a very intelligent and thought-stirring comment that forced me to go back, clarify and refine/rethink/rewrite much of my original post. So thank you Stephen!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    May 29, 2009 9:33 pm

    Your dress is beautiful I hope you took pictures from the wedding so I can see how beautiful you looked! I wish I was home b/c I would have been your date πŸ™‚
    Amazing post, and as you know I am also a control freak who feel judged and misplaced a lot….wondering if I am EVER going to feel like I am doing what I should be doing here with my time.
    Your so smart, and I love to read your mind!

  2. Stephen permalink
    May 30, 2009 12:49 pm

    Caroline,
    I usually wouldn’t respond to this, but I saw it on your facebook profile after going back and forth with Frank about the farmer’s market. I will try not to lose my train of thought here (I have flight of the conchords on in the background) and will try to give complete thoughts as best as possible.

    I’m thinking I’ll respond point by point, mirrored to your actual post. No, I won’t. Change of plans. Instead I will attempt to be thoughtful but not quite as focused as I originally planned.

    My main question is whether the hypothetical dialogue you had with “God” is something that is real or something that you want to hear. I worry that a lot of the time I spent as a practicing Christian included an awful lot of wish thinking that ultimately came down to me trying to fit what I wanted to believe was true into what an esoteric ancient text said I “should” believe is true. This wish thinking does a lot of damage to self-esteem and it wastes a lot of time. I remember having these sorts of dialogues, and I think the worst part of it was that I really believed it was the Holy Spirit talking to me. I would hear something and then think it was the Holy Spirit and then get in an arguing match with myself back and forth about these particular points. I now see this as little more than a strange psychosis. I haven’t had these dialogues (that I know of) recently with myself, and there is very little way that I could ever attribute it to God.

    OK, if you’re insecure about somethings, that’s alright. I wonder if it would be more beneficial, though, for you to take on your insecurity yourself than to struggle so helplessly against it trying to believe only the voice of the supposed Holy Spirit.

    Imagine for a second that God doesn’t exist. If you were to replay that whole situation (don’t split hairs about, “well if God doesn’t exist than no one would be getting married” or other avenues like that. It’s missing my point) how would the replay be different? I can see a couple possibilities. One would be that you wouldn’t have a false confirmation of your beauty that it seems you don’t really believe anyway, and so you would be very uncomfortable for the entire wedding and maybe cry when you got home. The second possibility that I see is that you would face your insecurity and develop the personal will to overcome it. Is this not true? I believe that this is true. If you should be able to overcome it in this hypothetical situation then is seems that even now, if you were to take the reins a bit more and not “give it up to God” as it were, you would be able to live a more secure, more fullfilled life. Am I missing a jump in logic here? If so, please tell me where because I”m still working through these things myself.

    I think my biggest most recent beef with the way I used to think is the idea of being “saved,” and how one must rely on something one doesn’t even know to become it. I’m leaving aside, for now, any arguments about the historical Jesus and that kind of stuff, though I DO NOT agree with Biblical inerrancy one bit. Ultimately, this relates to the previous point. You believe that you can’t “save” yourself, though you don’t really know what “saving” entails and you think you know what you need to do to get it. I suggest this: the desire to be “saved” is another instance of wishful thinking that ultimately has little to no effect on the way a person lives life. My situation is that I want to know how to live morally, honestly, humbly, etc. I feel “giving it up to God” and “being saved” and all of these other cliched phrases that come out of church don’t do a thing for helping a person live. The false dichotomy that you may be thinking is that, well if I don’t “give it up to God” then that must mean that I think I’m in control of my world. This is not true. Even without giving up control to anyone/thing else, a person has to realize that situations happen that are out of his or her control every day. I know this. I understand that I can’t control everything. I don’t think God is responsible for that and I don’t trust him to do anything about it.

    For example, I have two friends who are in South Korea right now. They posted on facebook the other day something about praying for the people of North Korea. For the first time, this hit me in such a way that I realized how useless that is. What is prayer going to do? I believe nothing. You may believe that it actually does something, and they do to, I’m sure (they’re missionaries over there). But, ultimately, if I prayed or if I didn’t pray, something would happen. Am I really as prideful as to think that my prayers DID something to change the outcome of whatever happens? No, I don’t think that it changes a thing. In a similar way, trying to relinquish control for something you don’t have control over to someone who may or may not exist may be a therapeutic exercise (though considering your point about the insecurity, that therapy doesn’t seem to work) but it is ultimately not necessary for the world to continue to spin, the sun to continue to shine, me to get up and eat breakfast, or sleep in, or jump off a building, or save a child from a burning building. It just may not matter and the cognitive dissonance that occurs when you try so so so hard to believe it’s true actually causes more confusion than enlightenment.

    I worry about the last comment you make. That God has an answer for everything, he just doesn’t want to share it. That seems like first a very cruel thing to do and second a very unrealistic or unbelievable situation. It seems to be almost a waste of energy to have any back and forth with God. First of all, you can never win and second of all you rarely get an answer that is satisfactory at all. To this I shake my head. Why would anyone want any part of it? What benefit does it give you to put yourself through this love hate relationship with some supposed being that supposedly loves you but doesn’t even do anything for you that’s different than what happens to other people. Remember, the sun shines on the believer and the unbeliever. Whether you believe or not, life is still going to happen. As an unbeliever, though, it seems like it would be much easier to be satisfied with the stuff that you don’t understand, whereas a believer always has this struggle with thinking there actually is an answer but that someone isn’t bothering to share it.

    I want to quote something from the post here:

    “I don’t want to let go or let God, because neither of those give me the power and control to plan and cleanly execute my life. But I know I need to, because most of the time, I’m suffocating myself.”

    I find this curious. Do you think you could “cleanly execute your life”? That’s why you want to “let go and let God”? Yet, you say that you ultimately don’t now how to cleanly execute your life because you’re “suffocating (your)self” (I’m sure that’s a metaphorical suffocating). So, why do you need to let God have supposed control when if you had control anyway you wouldn’t know what to do? This is what I see here: it seems that you would be better off taking control of your life, realizing you have that control (but that there ARE things you don’t have control of), and then acting on it. Do you want a different job? Do you want to live somewhere else? Do you want to move to DC? What do you want to do? It appears that God is an excuse not to be proactive. Caroline, you do have control of your life. God will not come down and pay your bills if you stop going to work. You must be proactive, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    NOW, I have to make the point that despite anything I said, it doesn’t mean I don’t believe there is a transcendent and numinous aspect to life. I do. I think that you get that with love between people, you get it reading a good book or watching a good movie, and you get it when you see the sunrise. Everyone has the capacity for enjoying these things. That is a fact of life, and to say that it comes from a particular creator who ALSO wants a relationship, just seems like a nonsequitor.

    Ultimately, you have to believe you’re beautiful in the dress (because I”m sure that you were because you are), you have to accept that you don’t know some things that that those things just may NOT have an answer or reason, and you have to think about what it means to take control of your life in a real way and not in the way that you jump to oppose.

    Ugg, I”m not sure if any of this made any sense. Frank’s bringing you to Jake’s wedding, right? We can talk there. And wear a dress and look beautiful there too. I’ll try to remember to comment on it when I see you. If I don’t, remind me to tell you you look nice.

  3. Caroline permalink*
    May 30, 2009 1:56 pm

    Stephen, I think you officially win “the longest comment ever left on a blog in the history of the world.” πŸ™‚ However, I do really appreciate your thoughts and comments, and will do my best to respond to them.

    First off, I hope this entry didn’t give off the impression that I thought I was having actual dialogue with God. It was much more in my head, and perhaps I should have clarified that. With what I believe about God (that He is loving, that He is graceful or rather full of Grace, that He is refining us to be the best version of ourselves possible etc.), this was more how I imagined Him to respond. So obviously, it could be totally errant. Perhaps I will add a disclaimer about that — because I can see how that would be confusing, and I don’t want to give off the impression that I alone have exclusive dialogue with the Holy Spirit and that it’s not influenced by my own wishful thinking at times.

    I suppose a lot of this “conversation” is really me coming to terms with what I believe and how that influences the rest of my life. I’m still figuring it out, I’ll always be figuring it out, so much of how I figure it out will be a mess.

    In regards to the insecurity thing, while it may not seem like such, I am actually not really very insecure. I think at first, when I arrived at that wedding, I didn’t know anyone, so my first reaction was nerves. Once that passed shortly after, I was able to enjoy the rest of my night without worries about anyone else or what they thought. I had gotten rid of that stupid monkey and settled back comfortably into my own skin. I think I needed to breathe and remember that as a woman and as a creation of God, tha I am beautiful no matter what. Once I centered myself in that (i.e. the bit about knowing that God thinks I looked nice), I was able to enjoy myself. However, being human, of course, I still struggle with self-acceptance. I think you’re very right in saying that whether or not God exists, a person needs to develop a will to accept themselves as they are and overcome insecurity. (I’m working on that.) Simply hoping that God will “change your heart” and leaving it as that isn’t going to do much. I see it as if God asked us to partner with Him through Jesus and as a part of the Good News, I don’t see why He wouldn’t expect us to do any of the work.

    I don’t think “giving it up to God” should ever be an excuse to not take control and responsibility for all the things that we can in our lives. God created us with free will, and to take charge in what we do. Whether that’s a job, a marriage, a home, or anything else, I believe while He has given us wisdom, He has also given us brains, to make decisions, to see things through. This is something I’ve always had a rough time with, but some reading as of late has revealed to me that sitting around waiting for God to do His part is not the idea, nor has it ever been. “Letting go and letting God” to me does not represent hiding behind an excuse that God will just take care of everything, so I can just sit here and hope for the best. I think that’s why I’ve never liked that phrase — it insinuates that we don’t have to do anything once we “let it go.”

    My suffocation (metaphorically speaking) has always been that I overthink everything, when God is usually asking me to trust that even if I screw up and make the wrong choice, He has grace enough to help me learn how to redeem it and keep going.

    I believe I have been shown a path through Jesus on the best way to live — love, compassion, grace, kindness, peace — and from there, it’s up to me. God promises to be with us every step of the way, and for me, it’s more of a fear to struggle to accept that promise. I think that’s what a lot of this “dialogue” centered around — I know that He’ll be there and never leave me, but I fear pain and discomfort and not knowing things. This “voice” in my head, whether it was the Holy Spirit or my own, was simply reminding me that I will never be in a perfectly safe, perfectly controlled place to make decisions that are foolproof. I think you touched on that — in that we have to take control of what we can, and deal with what we can’t. Being proactive is huge and not at all counterintuative to Christianity or God, not how I understand it anyway. I suppose this idea has always been particularly hard for me, because I’ve always been a timid person, and I don’t always fight as hard against fear as I could.

    As to God having the answers and not sharing them, I don’t see it as being cruel, not in the way I think of it. He being God, being divine, omniscient, etc., He can see the big picture, while I seem to often be lost in the details. I think at those moments when He doesn’t share, it’s not out of being cruel or holding out on me or anyone else…it’s simply that I am not in a place to see the big picture or to understand it. If God gave me all the answers all the time, I would never have to do anything or trust in Him being with me no matter what. I would just know and be safe, which I don’t think was ever what He had in mind. Make sense? When I am in those places, feeling confused or frustrated, prayer for me is my own reconciliation with not knowing. I don’t really know how much I believe that our prayers change God, because I really don’t think that they do. I don’t think if enough people pray for Person A who is sick that they will miraculously heal because God decided to listen. Prayer for me is much more coming to God with the fact that I don’t know and sharing my struggles, my mistunderstandings and mistakes with One who loves me. It’s an extremely mysterious thing, prayer, and I won’t pretend to understand much of its subtleties. But in answer to the questions you posed, I don’t think our prayers change God’s mind. One of my favorite quotes about this subject was from a movie made about CS Lewis called “Shadowlands.” His wife was dying and his friend told him not to worry, because he knew how hard he had been praying. Lewis responds as follows:

    “That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

    Lewis’s “A Grief Observed” is a stellar text to consult when it comes to the subject of doubt, of God’s will, and of letting go. When his wife died of cancer, this book was his pouring out of his grief, anger, and frustration with God. It’s an honest and beautiful thing.

    I really, really appreciate all your thoughts on the subject, and I hope we can talk more about them at Jake’s wedding (at which I will be wearing that dress). I know myself and I know I tend to write “off the cuff,” so to speak, which is why I am thankful to have friends like you and Sandra who force me to think out my own thoughts instead of just writing and pressing “publish.”

    Thanks. πŸ™‚

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