“No, it’s true. I swear. Hand to God, I swear.”
“God doesn’t want to see your hand!”
“God doesn’t want to see your hand!”
I don’t know how often this happens to you, but for some reason I keep getting weird songs stuck in my head with alarming frequency. And even though I’m not very good at it, I sing all the time, so my entire family (and, occasionally, the entire grocery store) is treated to the lyrics of a song that runs along the lines of, “Bananas, bananas, they’re sitting on my fridge!” The latest entry in this disturbing lineup goes like this: “No, I don’t wear pants! (Slap those thighs) No, I don’t wear pants! (Don’t apologize) Just take a look at Lance and how he won the Tour de France, no pants!” I could go on, but I suspect that you are already considering leaving my blog and moving on to pursuits more worthy of your time. I only mention it because it was on a YouTube video by my favorite comedian in the entire world, Wheezy Waiter, and in that video was a line that made me think. And, of course, laugh.
One of his clones (inside joke; long time in explaining) stepped into the room and announced blithely, “I’m not wearin’ any pants!” And indeed, he was not (which, oddly, was not nearly as disturbing as it should have been). Wheezy Waiter grimaced in disgust, commanding the clone to remain fully clothed. “Ugh, gross. Put some pants on. Nobody wants to see
that. No. God doesn’t even want to see that, and He’s supposed to be forgiving.” That’s the part I found interesting. I’m pretty sure Wheezy Waiter is an atheist, but the implied joke was that of course God doesn’t mind the clone’s hairy exposed legs. That’s why it’s funny; saying the opposite of what everyone knows to be true. Wheezy Waiter just took it for granted that God just kind of glosses over things like weird hairy legs.
And that struck me profoundly because for a long time I didn’t really believe that.
I was told that I was not and never would be good enough for God. Good enough for anyone, really, but mostly God. All of us were, in that church. We believed it, of course, because who ever feels good enough in the first place anyway? Oh yeah, God forgives and stuff, but don’t forget that once He wiped out the entire human race in a fiery storm of flooding and earthquakes! We were taught to confess our sins, get them off our chests, but don’t really expect any improvement, and don’t expect God to forgive you for that particular sin until you’ve completely expunged it from your life. You don’t deserve it. And there were a lot of sins to repent of!
This might be just my own personality here, because I’m a pretty lazy person anyway, but the whole thing just looked to me like a losing battle so I just gave up a little. I stopped praying. It’s not that I just kept forgetting and forgetting until in the end I stopped altogether. I would consciously hold back, even when I felt like it (which was another sin, because we were supposed to be praying morning, noon, and night). What right had I, scum, to speak with the Creator? The holy, just, everlasting King of everything? I always just kind of felt that God didn’t want to see me until I had fixed myself. So the only praying I did was confession of sin, and I didn’t even do that regularly.
The biggest irony here is that I remember singing that one hymn (its name eludes me) with the line, “If you tarry ‘til you’re better, you will never come at all.” Come, Ye Sinners. That’s it.
It wasn’t until after we left that I started to pray again. No, strike that: it wasn’t just prayer. I started to believe in Jesus.
See, they never really mentioned Jesus. Well, they did, of course. They’d paint a picture of His broken, bleeding body hanging on the Cross, suspended by the nails driven into His flesh. And they’d say, “This is your fault. I hope you’re happy.” How do you face God after murdering His Son? I couldn’t.
But, as I say, we left. And I began to see again. I saw the Cross. But I also saw the empty tomb. The scales fell from my eyes, like they did from Paul’s. Paul, the murderer-turned-saint. I saw that too. I saw the tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and cripples. I saw how they went to Jesus, and how He would smile at them and tell them their sins were forgiven. I saw Him picking up the children and laughing. But you know the one thing I didn’t see? Never once did I see that someone went to Him and He turned them away. Jesus would pick people up and heal their hurts. He’d wipe the tears away. He never said, “Come back when you deserve My help.” He said, “Your sins are forgiven you,” sometimes even before they asked.
That’s when I started to pray again. Jesus called me Daughter. How can you turn away from your Father when He calls you? I started to pray. And for the first time, I felt it. I really felt like I was talking to my Daddy, like He could see how screwed up I was, all the wounds and the hatred and the anger I kept bottled up inside, but He just took it all in stride and loved me anyway. I stopped waiting to be perfect, and I just talked. I told Him what I wanted and what I was feeling and what I didn’t understand, and He listened. I know He listened. I stopped feeling like I was talking to someone who couldn’t stand the sight of me. And you really have no idea what a good feeling that is, that unconditional acceptance. I didn’t have to tarry ‘til I was better because I was good enough now. Jesus saw to that. And heaven knows I need it. Someone like me does not just become good overnight, or even in forty years. I need all the unconditional acceptance I can get.
I know I’m not the only one who has felt like this. Maybe some of you are feeling it now. You’re being told, perhaps, that your sin is so deeply repulsive to God that He doesn’t even want to be near you until you shape up. That’s a lie. I’m not even going to say something polite like “not true,” because it’s deeper than that. It’s a guilt-based control mechanism. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’re not a wretch. You just aren’t. You’re a human being created in the image of God, who, by the way, is Love. God is not going to push you away until you can deserve His presence. I know it doesn’t feel like He wants to see you, but you’re His child, for pity’s sake! What kind of horrible father pushes his kid away when she needs to talk to him? “Daddy, I’m confused. I’m lonely. I’m upset. Just talk to me, Daddy. Please.” “Yeah,” he says, “but you’re also messed up. So get yourself in order, and then we’ll talk.” Who does that?
That’s really all I wanted to say. If you want to talk to God, if you need to unburden your heart, if you’re confused or lonely, or whatever else it is you need, just say it. Please. The Lord doesn’t need you to be better than you are. Go to Him. Really, you won’t get what you need from anyone else. You need to talk to Him. And, believe it or not, He wants you to. I think God really does take an interest in us. I think He likes to hear what we have to tell Him. Which is quite fortunate for me personally, because I never shut up. It always feels good to know Someone’s listening.