My latest in bad theology: I believe in a sneaky God.
I’m sure you’ve all seen it. And if you haven’t, it is a must. This Halloween, Jimmy Kimmel issued a challenge to parents to trick their kids into thinking they ate all of their Halloween candy. The resulting video was epic.
There’s kicking, there’s screaming, there’s crying and snot, there’s name calling.
All because of these sneaky moms and dads.
I want to call these kids bratty. I want to mount my high horse of “dang, these kids are entitled,” but the truth is, I identify with them. When you really expect something (whether you’re entitled to it or not, whether it’s a realistic expectation or not) the disappointment of not getting it is harsh.
There are times I want to kick and scream and cry out, “You sneaky God,” when my prayers aren’t answered, when my plans are thwarted, when my Halloween candy is taken away.
It’s more than just a knee jerk reaction to disappointment, though. I’ve discovered I’ve started to base my life and my beliefs and my prayers on the premise that God is trying to trick me.
My faulty beliefs started out innocent enough.
God wooed me from a place of anger and cynicism and doubt.
He showed up when I didn’t ask for it or expect it or even want it. And my response, an awe-filled: “You sneaky God.”
I was wooed by a God who cut through my anger, hopelessness, and numbness to show his surprising, redemptive, and mischievous face.
And now all I can see is the mischief. Now that I believe in and follow this God, I fear he will abandon me in the same mischievous way that he first showed up. That I will ask and beg and cry out desperate for his presence and his answers, and he will go into hiding, a smirk on his face, as I respond with a bitter-tinged: “You sneaky God.”
Somewhere along the road, I started to counter his tricks with tricks. I’ve found myself striving to concoct the perfect blend of anger, cynicism, and doubt to trick him into showing up. I’ve made it all about me again. I have to act a certain way, jump through hoops, manipulate him into answering me.
I forget that he showed up not to spite me, but to love me.
I forget that I came to love him because he loves me, not because he tricks me. I mean, sure, I appreciate a whimsical amount of mischief and surprise, but that’s not what made me fall in love. It was his love. His exceeding of my expectations. His grace and mercy and compassion. That never fails. That doesn’t go into hiding just because I look for it.
As much as I fear he won’t show up when I ask him to, this is the part that makes my relationship with God based on faith. It’s true he doesn’t always show up in ways that I think he should. It’s true he isn’t always readily tangible to me. It’s true I don’t always get what I want. It’s true that sometimes it feels like he took away my Halloween candy just to spite me.
But that doesn’t make his presence and his goodness any less real.
In a very apropos message at church yesterday, my pastor talked about trusting God in the dark. In the times when he seems silent and sneaky, a perpetual trickster.
Two pieces of advice he had: 1. Be totally honest with God and 2. When it comes to faith, perseverance pays off.
So, 1. God, I am scared that because you showed up when I didn’t ask you to, that you won’t show up now that I’m asking.
2. God, I will trust you. I will wrestle with you. I will press into these lies I tell myself about you. I will (try) to stop manipulating you. I will practice resting in your love. I will replace, “You sneaky God” with “You stubborn God” and “You lavish God.” Stubborn in your love for me, and lavish in your gifts for me.