(Originally posted on May 21, 2012)
Yesterday, I invited God to a whine-fest, “I’m so sorry! Why do you put up with me? I can never seem to get this human thing right.” Paul and I are like kindred spirits, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15). Mea culpa, mea culpa.
And then, this morning – an AHA moment! That holy 2×4…WACK, “Pay attention, Linda!”
It began a few days ago as a presumed uneventful adventure into the Bible. I resisted my usual habit of skipping over the begots, genealogies, and the “order of Creation.” That’s why I try to avoid the Old Testament unless I am searching for a particular verse. You know, the short, profound, meaningful ones.
I have persevered now. I’m almost to the end of Genesis – whew – it’s like running a marathon! Suddenly, the reality of yesterday’s whine-fest smacked me silly. I act like I’m the only misfit God created, the only failure. God’s only recorded mistake – ever!
But, alas, realizing a common bond, I have found myself shaking my head and laughing at the characters in Genesis! I’m sure you know these stories well. But have you ever connected the dots between them and us? Here’s what I find so amusing, though I’m not so sure God is amused:
- God creates paradise. He plops Adam and Eve right in the middle of it. Eve barely gets her first morning stretch in before Satan offers her breakfast –THE APPLE! She bites (literally). Gives it to Adam. He bites. God shows up unannounced (he’s sneaky like that!). Adam whines and passes the blame off on Eve, “It’s not my fault! She made me do it”! (Genesis 1:1-3:24)
- Adam and Eve have sex, as the job of being “fruitful and multiplying” rested entirely on them at this point.
- So, Caine and Able are the first to arrive. Time lapses. Then, Caine, out of jealousy, kills his brother Able. God shows up unexpectedly. Again. He punishes Caine. Caine whines, denies any wrongdoing, and with an in-God’s-face retort, “I don’t deserve this!” – he pleads for his life. (4:1-15)
Next, we have Noah…
- He most likely didn’t whine. Well, maybe he complained about cleaning up after all those stinky animals, but we don’t know that for sure. Perhaps he kept his mouth shut because he was privy to God’s anger about all the stuff he had to put up with. Noah knew God was having Creator’s remorse and decided to wipe humanity out and start all over (6:9-8:19). (I don’t know, God. Maybe this would have been a good time to reconsider that whole free-will thing. Maybe.)
- Even though God promised not to wipe out all of creation ever again, he didn’t promise not to annihilate a small part. Just a shot across the bow on Sodom and Gomorrah. God couldn’t even find ten faithful people there. So, Sodom and Gomorrah are no more. (19:1–25) Then, God asks anyone watching, “How do you like me now?!”
Then, as soon as Noah’s sons hit dry land they began multiplying, cause God said so.
- Somewhere in all that begetting, Abraham is born, grows to manhood, and marries Sarah. And they have sex too, but Sarah can’t conceive. God promises them a son in their old age, but they do not believe it, and Sarah is even caught laughing at him (18:10-15). Really!
- When Abraham told Sarah she would conceive at the age of ninety-five, she rolled on the floor laughing. God heard her, “Are you laughing at me”? Sarah tries to deny it, “No, no, I wasn’t laughing…really”! God replied, “Yes, you were! Just for that, you’re not only going to conceive, but I will also give you, and every woman after you, stretch marks! Not so funny now, is it?” But, really, I’m not sure Sarah grieved over her stretch marks. It’s not like bikini lines were an issue.
Hold on, more whining is coming…
- In verses 16:1-6, the waiting got to be too much for Sarah. She failed to trust God’s promise. Whining to him for making her barren, Sarah takes matters into her own hands and gives Abraham her maidservant, Hagar, to conceive a child for her, and we all know how that turned out! Now, Sarah whines to God again. Hagar is making her life a living hell (16:1-6). Then, unbelievably (even though God promised), Sarah conceives Isaac (21:1-7).
- Okay, now here’s Isaac, a grown man. He falls in love with beautiful Rebekah, who becomes his wife (24:62-67). Ahhh, a marriage made in heaven…NOT! They have twin sons, Jacob and Esau…awe…. Mom and dad play favorites. Isaac loves Esau, and Rebekah loves Jacob (25:27-28). And, you guessed it, Rebekah whines because Esau was born first and therefore had the birthright she wanted for Jacob. So, she and Jacob trick Isaac (25:29-34, 27:1-46).
- Jacob falls in love with Rachel but is coned by their father into marrying her older sister. Then, whining, he realizes he has no alternative but to work longer so he could also marry Rachel. And, of course, there was plenty of whining between the two sisters, now sharing a husband. They were each pumping out baby after baby, trying to win his favor (29:1-30:24). Whoever thought of that arrangement never knew about PMS! Yeah, I say Jacob deserved it. Can I get an AMEN, sisters?!
Okay, that’s as far as I have gotten in the Old Testament – the FIRST BOOK! And, of course, there are lots more to come. We know that – deceit, murder, adultery, and the endless, incessant whining – everything we’re seeing and doing today, they were doing then. Even those God loved and favored. This has been the reality of humanity throughout the ages.
Yes, we are sinners, grumblers, and selfish, self-centered creatures – the whole lot of us. But God refuses to wipe us out again. And because we have not changed one tinsy bit, what he did seems more ridiculous than ever, “Christ died for the ungodly. Scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man, someone would dare to die. But God demonstrates his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
If Jesus wanted to walk with the sinless, he would have had to walk alone. If he was looking for someone, anyone, who was without fault, he would have had to look in the mirror. If he would only die for those who deserved it, he would not have bothered to come.
We humans, we sinful, messy, prideful, self-centered outcasts, are deeply loved by God in spite of ourselves. Why? It bears repeating that we were made in his image, and yet we beat ourselves up constantly for who we have come to believe we are, for only seeing our faults and assuming that’s all God sees too. Oh, he sees our faults – don’t ever doubt that! But he also sees the beauty deep within when he gazes lovingly at us. Every stinkin’ one of us.
And how about this for a revelation! Do you think God “gazed lovingly” at the Pharisees in the Old Testament times or their counterparts today? He shouldn’t have by our standards. But, here’s the reality. The sun shines, the cooling rains fall gently, the mighty Oak tree’s shade covers – all – the good and the evil.
Unlike the Pharisees, we “Publicans” know we need God. I ask you, is that not what is going on every time we whine? Something is happening in our life at that moment that is not right, and we know as Christians that God is the only one who can make it right. We grumble to the One who can take it and turn it around – it’s the Job story played out over and over again.
Henri Nouwen, in his book “The Life of the Beloved” says, “I want you to hear that voice, too. It is a very important voice that says, “You are my beloved son; you are my beloved daughter. I love you with an everlasting love. You belong to Me. That is where the spiritual life starts — by claiming the voice that calls us the beloved.”
Life can seem as painful as being pecked to death by a chicken. But live it we must if we are to fulfill our calling; our destiny. Claiming the innate blessedness of our humanity offers no trophies to set on a mantle, no promises of worldly success, no protection from pain, no surety of love from others. What it does offer, with surety, is a life unimaginable if we can just trust that God resides in our messiness.
Here’s my “Tear-Out for Quick Reference” because I daily forget who I am. What would yours look like?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Tear-out for Quick Reference:
- Begin and end every day in prayer. Spend a good deal of that time listening.
- Stop my incessant whining and start living as the deeply and radically beloved sinner I am.
- Admit my faults and ask forgiveness from those I have hurt.
- Let go of my “right” to hurt others as they have hurt me. Forgive them.
- Follow this simple and straightforward path of Micah 6:8, “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”
- Don’t be a jerk.
- Leave the world a better place than I found it.