It occurred to me in the midst of prayers last evening how thankful I am for the relationships that I enjoy in my life. Particularly the relationship that continues to develop between the Creator and myself. Things have not been going smoothly over the past few weeks, and at points I have felt overwhelmed by the obstacles that have appeared. Years ago, of course, I would have simply ignored them and drank more whiskey, made things worse for everyone, and blamed everyone else for my troubles. But now, I pray - and last night, it came to me that God was not looking for me to pray for a way out of, or around, the problems that are present in my life. He was just asking me to be present.
So I didn't pray for magical intervention and deliverance from the difficulties of life. I did experience, in the fullness of God's presence, a joyfulness at one in the morning, because God was there for me. I knew that despite the fact of failures, tragedies, and bad choices, I was loved. And accepting that I was loved, and valued, and wanted by a Loving Spirit, makes it possible for me to enjoy the fruits of other relationships that help me get through the pissy parts of life. Because of that sense of pure lovingkindness that I experience with YHWH, I can truly love and receive love from others in my life. I can love my wife and children, and I can love the stranger and see God reflected through her.
The funny thing is, there would not seem for most to be much deliverance in this experience. My problems are still real, and they will not go away because God loves me. Also, the wars of the world still rage on, people still starve, and young people are still being murdered and imprisoned in our nation's cities. Sometimes, it really doesn't seem like the God that is revealed by Jesus does a damn thing for anyone. Jesus goes to the cross, the disciples are mostly martyred, and I can't buy any food.
But I don't really think this is God's problem. I certainly don't follow the script of Job, and I am not prepared to blame God for not acting in my life according to the dictates of my own preferences or will. Indeed, God doesn't promise us much of anything, other than we are saved as a people from our rejection of God's will by the ministry of Jesus. It is Jesus who welcomes us into a narrative that reminds us that salvation comes not through liberal democracy, freedom fighting, or free markets, but through a community of servants who act as a reflection of a reality that exposes the world's offer of freedom as a lie. YHWH is a God of love, peace, and justice, and YHWH expects that the people of God will strive to live such a life. But there is no promise that it will be easy, and there is no promise of individual success. There is only a promise (or hope?) of relationship between the Creator and the creature, and between the created in the context of the Church. Our salvation may be that we never have to go through our difficult times alone.
I know this doesn't seem fair, especially if your getting the crappy end of the stick. What the hell does relationship do for you if your losing your house? Or have lost your husband, or have been imprisoned unjustly. I can't even try to answer questions of theodicy, so I 'll spare you. But I will once again state that if your faith community is not helping you find food and shelter while your at rock bottom, then you need a new community. And if your church is not walking down the lonely path of loss when your husband is gone, then you need a new church. And if you are not exhorting your fellow worshippers to labor intensely in order to liberate the oppressed, you are inviting similar circumstances into your own life.
It is because we know that life isn't fair that we pull together in communities that offer themselves as salve for the wounds of life. We offer relationship, because it is relationship alone that offers the hope we need as a people of peace and justice to make the changes necessary to reflect God's intentions. The problem so many believers have today is that they have been sold a bill of goods by preachers who tell them that God exists to underwrite our American lifestyles, profit margins, and foreign policy. If your not a member of the middle-class, then you must not have the faith required by God to be blessed with a Cadillac.
Believe it or not, I saw a Cadillac in West Alexandria, OH with a vanity plate that read "askd rcvd." It's theology like that that drive people to blame God for injustice, and not their own apostate churches. But what is truly amazing, is how quickly I have turned a gentle musing about prayer and love into a rant about socio-economic injustice. Who says there is no such thing as sin.