People tell me:
- Often, I have prayed to your God, but nothing ever happened!
Tonight, at Washington Square Park, a woman told me this very thing. I therefore responded:
- For years, I vainly sought after God. I had thought that I was really searching, but I wasn’t. Instead, I wanted God my way. He had to be a Jewish God, a God who authenticated my Jewish ethnicity. I would have nothing to do with Jesus. He was a traitor, and many Jews had been killed in his name. However, that all changed when, years later, I lay dying, bleeding to death from a severe chainsaw injury. Suddenly, I realized that God was with me, and I was in ecstasy. Nothing mattered anymore, just that God loved me and that I would always be with Him. For the first time, I prayed, “God, I really need to know who you are, even if it costs me both hands and legs,” and I meant it.
I suggested to the woman that perhaps she too wanted God her own way and wasn’t truly open to who He is. I explained Jesus’ guarantee – that if we seek, we will find (Mat. 7:7-8), but she would have to seek with all of her heart.
Her face tightened:
- I can’t believe in a God who says that homosexuality is wrong.
I tried to argue that God wisely forbade certain destructive sexual practices like adultery and incest, and perhaps homosexuality is also destructive.
I quickly realized that I said the wrong thing:
- I can’t stand the way you Christians liken homosexuality to adultery and incest.
She became inflamed, and so I tried to change my tactics:
- Okay, let me take a step back. Are you saying that you will not believe in a God whose worldview doesn’t line up with yours in every way? It looks like you are doing the very same thing that I had been doing – rejecting a God who doesn’t ascribe to all your requirements.
We wrongly expect God to conform to us. Rather, it is we who must be willing to conform to Him, to be open to accepting Him as He truly is. However, as long as we insist on remaining the captain-of-our-own-ship, we essentially refuse to board His ship.
She looked very confused and protested:
- I can’t believe in this God of yours!
I explained that I was simply asking her to search and pray with an open mind. We cannot demand that the ones we love endorse all of our beliefs. Instead, we have to accept them as they are. How much more does this pertain to a relationship with God!
I don’t think that she was able to see that it was she who had erected the barrier between her and a relationship with God.
Our autonomy is so basic to our existence that we can’t see it and how it interferes with our relationships. Can the sea urchin see the water if that’s the only thing he’s ever lived in?
I wasn’t able to see the absurdity of claiming to be seeking for God, when I was merely seeking a God of my own creation, one whose job it was to validate me. Sadly, this is what it today means to be “spiritual.” It is to treat God as a smorgasbord table, picking-and-choosing what appeals to us, without a clue that this is offensive to God.