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To Where Else Shall I Go? The Childish and the Childlike

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

A W Tozer

Who do you believe God to be? For a long time, I loved this Tozer quote. I loved the idea that what we think about God is the most important thing about us and from these thoughts flow our beliefs, values, and actions. I've however come to learn that what we think about God may be head knowledge based on what we've read in Scripture or what others have said about Him.

What we believe to be true is tested and often our head knowledge doesn't always allow us to survive some of life's storms. In the middle of loss, disillusionment, disappointment, and brokenness we find ourselves back at square one questioning and doubting the very things we held to be true about God.

In the difficulties of life, unanswered prayer, we may internally battle with the thoughts,

"I thought God would........but instead........." "

"I thought God was.........but He hasn't or didn't........"

"I expected God to..........."

"Why would God let............happen?"

We often think we can bring our childlike joy, faith, and wonder but not our 'childish' complaints, discomforts, or pains. So often, the older we get in our faith and the more mature we become, we grow to believe that God has an intolerance for our childishness. Our complaining, our doubts, our questions. We see maturity as trust without questions or expression of one's inner turmoil.

We assume God wants nothing but our glorious roaring hallelujah and has no room for our gritty raw emotions in the hollows. So we withhold our 'childishness' from God and slowly whither away inside and move further and further away from God.

We're often waiting to be rebuked for our doubt, disappointment, and disillusionment. There was a time I'd give myself a spiritual slap on the wrist for even daring to think such things. As the frequency of trials, pain, and disappointment frequent my life, I'm learning that it's not so much about not daring to think those thoughts or have those questions as it is about knowing where to take them. I'm learning He wants a relationship with me, which comes with my responses, childish as they may sometimes be.

Sometimes, I've felt God asking, "Where are you, Maria?"
When I dare to be honest, I respond, "I'm hiding. I'm not where you left me. My pain moved me out of position. Disappointment and disillusionment distorted my heart posture toward you. Sorrow shook my stance. Shame sent me into the shadows. I don't have the words in this wilderness and I'm afraid that what I have to bring is not up to your spiritual standards and expectations of me as your follower."

If we can't be honest with the One we follow about where we've gotten stuck in our following we can never get unstuck. Instead, we drift further and further away and start to spiritually regress.

Two phrases from scripture have deeply resonated lately. After Jesus finished a difficult teaching that left some offended, scripture says that many of the disciples turned back and no longer followed Jesus. Jesus at that time asked a question, "Do you want to go away as well?" to which Peter famously responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:66-69).

Asaph, in Psalm 73 penned down these words;

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

These two passages bring us to question where else can we truly go and who else we truly have besides God. When we realize there is nowhere else to go we are forced to bring our most raw, honest, and hurting selves before the God we may have experienced disappointment in and we are not entirely certain we can fully trust.

God doesn’t want our cookie-cutter, Christianese words. He wants all of us, including our seemingly childish thoughts, imperfect wording, and incomplete sentences from places of deep brokenness.

Maybe God still holds space for us to still choke up in the middle of our hallelujah when we are having doubts about His goodness.
Maybe it’s not so much about having an immediately mature response but it’s that middle place - the wrestle with God that leads to the response we believe we ought to have had.
Maybe we will come out on the other side of the wrestle with a more mature response but here in the middle place, God can work with where we are at.
Maybe the valley of the shadow of death is also the arena we get our fight and faith back.
Maybe the wilderness is the ring and until we get in the wrestle with who we thought God was and what we thought He would do or would be and how He would respond, we may never have the opportunity to be introduced or reintroduced to Him for who He is.

Maybe experiences in the valley and the wilderness are what bring forth the mature response we think we ought to have built within us as part of the whole 'Christian' starter pack. Maybe the people we admire with 'mature' responses to pain, disappointment, and disillusion are those who once wrestled with God too until their head knowledge of God turned into heart knowledge. As we are honest with Him and encounter Him in a new way, we learn He is not just bigger than we thought in terms of the plans He has for us but He is better than we thought in terms of how he handles our rawness and brokenness.

Yes, Tozer was right, what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. It's not just what comes into our minds about what others have said He is but who we have experienced Him to be even in the shadows and the most broken places. What comes into our minds over time will come from what we know to be true in our hearts from all the times we needed rescuing from the pit of pain, doubt, disappointment, and disillusionment.

Perhaps what we perceive as childishness is childlikeness because we realize we have an audience with our Father and we don't have to hide our emotions or offer up pretend praise. That we may become those like Job who say, "I had heard of You [only] by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You." (Job 42:5)

So we get to say, "Here I am God, with the perceived childishness of this season. Here's my heart. Here are my raw thoughts and emotions. In this crevice of my heart hides my doubt of your goodness and love towards me, in that corner holds the disappointment I've nestled from when I needed you to show up and you didn't. On that top shelf bears the anger I've had towards you for how things have turned out. I have nowhere else to go and I have no one else but you. So I do not withhold any part of my thoughts and emotions from you. Reinstate my broken-down faith and blow again on my dried-up trust. Cause the scales of disillusionment that have distorted my sight of you to fall off my eyes and reveal Yourself for who You truly are and awaken all that is spiritually dead within me.


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