Saturday, August 5, 2017

When God Isn't Enough

Hello world, it's been some minutes.

Several people have approached me and asked why I don't blog anymore. Generally I mumble something about the demands of grad school and the fact that I have no free time, while sort of generally, dramatically bemoaning the overwhelming lack of inspiration & fear that my creative ability has finally exhausted itself. While there's some truth in most of these statements, the completely honest, vulnerable answer is that I've been afraid. I was scared. I lacked the courage needed to be honest and blog about what was on my heart, because at the beginning of this year I ran out of easy topics to write about. Anything else would require that I make a stand and be honest about what I actually believed it meant to be human, loved, lovely, sinful, fallen, and everything in between. I think I still lack a lot of that courage, but since my life has been made infinitely better recently by my dear friends' honesty, I want badly to follow their example.

Perhaps some of these topics won't seem like a big deal to you. Perhaps they wont feel like they need the disclaimer that I've given them. But to me they feel like stepping out of one skin and into another, all the while realizing that skin is shifting and without guarantee that the beliefs I hold are the right ones. So that being said, and disagreement being welcomed, onward we go.

I'm not sure how to introduce this topic, because there wasn't a turning point when I realized it was true. It was a combination of deep sadness, loneliness, a unique form of isolation, and searching. It was a bunch of long nights, the occasional tears, and questioning friends. It was aching in the same room as other aching people. More on that later. Largely, it was trying to bear all of this under the assumption that my relationship with God would fix it. That praying, Bible reading, devotional time, and quiet meditation would somehow quiet my spirit and my doubts, while also making me feel like I was less alone than I undeniably felt like I was. Eventually I came to the overwhelming, inescapable conclusion that God wasn't enough.

Now, if you find yourself gasping, hand to chest, fearing for my faith, don't worry. That last statement wasn't quite as heretical as maybe it initially pretended to be. And despite the fact that sometimes it's one of the most inconvenient aspects of my life, I haven't been able to get away from Christ and the way he seems to have my soul held tightly to him in a way that is equally inescapable. But after struggling for some time under the assumption that I was doing something wrong because my relationship with God was not fixing all my occasional emptiness, I've come to believe that I'm not entirely sure it was meant to at present.

In Genesis, God created Man in His image. The concept of Imago Dei, being created in the divine image, is an idea most Christians encounter early on. While it carries important information about God's relationship to us, it also carries important information about our relationship with one another. When Adam ruled the garden as its sole human occupant, God observed that it was not good for man to be alone. Not that it was bad for man to feel lonely, but that it was less than good for him to remain in isolation. This was true despite the fact that Adam found himself surrounded by nature in perfect form, every animal ever created, and walking in a relationship of unique intimacy with the Creator himself.  God walked with Adam and still saw that Adam needed more. Thus, Eve was created and the first relationship formed. When Adam and Eve fell, God removed an aspect of his presence from them. While they were still chosen by the Father, they were unable to enjoy the intimacy with him that they previously could. This also implies that while our relationship with God is all encompassing, it is incomplete this side of heaven. While this might seem like an observation made with common sense, it is often spoken about and lived out as if the opposite were true.

Enter Christ. Fully man, fully God, an ideal depiction of humanity in perfect relationship with the Father on Earth. Despite this, at the beginning of his ministry he chose to surround himself with the twelve men who would become his closest friends during his life. These men would then usher in the church age, a human filled picture of the body of Christ. This concept wasn't just built on community, it depended on it. While Christ did spend time alone with his father, the majority of his earthly life was spent in the company of his followers. In Gethsemane, Christ stood alone before God, but still kept his closest friends close behind because he didn't want to go through the approaching emotional agony alone. After Christ ascended into heaven, community threads through life of the church all the way up until our modern interpretations today.

So what's my point?

I've operated for most of my life under the belief that friends are great, but God is better. That community is important, but my individual understanding of, relationship to, and communion with Christ is of primary importance. This is in constant conflict with the fact that I am an extrovert whose love languages consist of physical touch and words of affirmation. Long distance friendship is nice, but presence is necessary if I'm going to built up at the soul level. If I tried to focus all my energy on perfecting my relationship to God as the primary relationship in my life, I wouldn't be healthy. Why? Because as of right now, that relationship aches with how utterly incomplete it is. Yes, that ache is there. The allegorical "God hole" that nothing else can fill. I feel it consistently and it makes my longing for heaven all the greater. In many ways, the incomplete nature of divine relationship ensures that I am never fully content in this mortal, human body, and am constantly longing to be in the presence of my Father in a way that can only come true within eternal worship. Acknowledging that however, almost means that I acknowledge that on this side of heaven, I am best comforted by the body of Christ here, present with me in brokenness.

My comfort is people. My friends. The beautiful, image bearing people indwelt with the Holy Spirit who act as Christ's body to me in the physical world as Christ holds me in the spiritual. They are as necessary to me as the bread I eat and the water I drink, because my relationship to God is not enough to sustain my physically within the fallen world. Likewise, my relationship with God is not enough to sustain me relationally in the fallen world. But, my relationship with Christ fills me with the grace necessary to love those around me well, and so within my physical relationships I am driven back to God time and time again. It is a never ending, communal circle that drives me closer to my Father and closer to my kindred spirits, and in both I honestly believe God is glorified, because good relationships serve to remind me that the best relationship is yet to come. It's okay He's not enough. It is not yet time for him to be.

There. I babbled. And maybe enough isn't the best word. Maybe the word "all" is better suited. Like I said, maybe that doesn't seem like the revelation to you that it has been to me over the past year, but realizing the importance of community has lifted rocks from on top of my chest. So here's till next time friends. And we beat on.