I mean, we say we don’t like being right, but I’m pretty sure that deep down we have all known that sense of satisfaction when we’ve been proved right about something, especially in front of specific individuals, or a large group of people.
You can tell me I’m wrong – and I’m perfectly aware of the irony of a discussion like this – but I don’t think there’s anyone who could genuinely say they don’t like being right, or that they prefer being wrong to being right.
We all know people who are right seemingly right all the time about everything, are really articulate in making their points and seem to have everything go their way, and even if we may not like it, there is a part of us that can feel a certain sense of satisfaction when we either get one over on them or we win an discussion or argument with them – but even more so when facts bear us out.
Why is that?
Why do we all like being right?
In fact, that raises a far bigger question.
Do we need to be right – and if so, why?
It seems to be inherent in all of us, this need or desire to be right. To have the final say. I mean, have you ever had a heated discussion about something you are passionate about where you were okay not having the final say?
Doesn’t happen often does it?
The thing is this goes far deeper than just being right, or anything relative to the discussion we are actually having. It comes from a fundamental desire or need we all seem to have to be in control.
Its’ been there since the fall. Since we decided we knew better than God, we have had this urge to want to control everything, when the reality is that in many ways we have little control.
We merely have the illusion of control.
The sad thing is, I think many religious people are some of the most guilty – and I believe if we indulge this need to control and be right we will end up not having real relationship with God.
We will have relationship with a version of God, but it will be one we can control, one that we know all about, one that makes total sense all the time, one we can get to grips with and understand without any need for mystery, doubt or questioning.
That, to me, is no relationship with God.
Peter Rollins wrote that ‘to doubt is divine’, and I know exactly what he means. We need feel free to ask God questions, engage with God, examine ourselves, and above all we must embrace mystery if we are to ever have real healthy relationship with God.
This is why those who reject the idea of mystery and who lift the Bible up too high, and want a God they can control, may not be as close to God as they think – yet the people who recognise that no matter how much they know, that it’s nothing in comparison to God, and who may not have all the textbook answers and may not have read all the books and have all the degrees, may actually understand God better.
I have read my fair share of blogs and books, ones I agree with and disagree with, and in my experience there are a lot of people who like to label certain preachers heretics and dismiss them completely, without too much evidence and often misrepresenting the evidence they do have.
There are people out there who seem to take a certain amount of security from the knowledge that others are condemned to hell, and like to almost boast about how right they are and how everyone outside their group needs to join it. It’s kind of sick really, and wouldn’t be tolerated from any other group in society – but with religious people it seems to be tolerated.
It’s certainly not an impulse you find in the life and example of Jesus.
In fact, He speaks out against that kind of thing – using the two examples of people making their offering in the temple. One stands up and makes a point of showing what they are giving, how great they are and how worthy and righteous they are, and the other gives all they have and merely asks that God have mercy on them, because they are a sinner.
Sadly, that sort of thing still happens today.
When questioned these people just point to their interpretation of scripture and say that’s how it is. Yet some of them don’t display any love, grace or humility. They talk about God like they know Him intimately, and like they are experts and they’ve got it right, so you had better agree with them and if you don’t then you’re off to hell, because they have the definitive answer.
It’s a reaction of fear, because their faith stems from fear – and not a healthy fear of the Lord, but a fear of consequence – and its’ not a loving response to a loving God, acting in love.
Now before you think I’m putting myself on a pedastal here, I’m not.
I’ll be honest and say at times in the past I have been as guilty of this as anyone. I like to think I’ve grown and moved on from that in recent years, but certainly till a few years ago I had a very narrow view of God and quite arrogant when talking about Him to others, looking back.
That was until in about 2004 someone asked me a question about why I believed a certain piece of basic docterine, and really probed me on it, and I realised that my only response was
“Because it’s in the Bible”.
Not an adequate response at all. In fact, I was totally humiliated. I realised just how much of a control freak I was with my faith. It was a faith with no room for questions, no room for exploring or doubt, no room for growth. It was, essentially, a legalistic faith based on rules, not a relationship.
After this I began to discover that the only way we can ever have full relationship with God is if we embrace mystery and if we feel we are free to ask any question of Him.
I have come to understand that we must embrace mystery if we are to fully know God, and rejoice and trust that God is in control, is bigger than we can imagaine, knows more than we do and that there are things we don’t know and don’t need to know.
Any other view of God simply limits God, and limits our relationship with Him to one of rules and regulations, and can put conditions on His love and blessing.
I believe passionately that we need to give up control, trust God and embrace mystery if we are to truly have a full relationship with God, and because I myself have struggled with giving up control and trusting God
Now before I move on let me make one thing clear.
There’s a difference between control and responsibility.
I believe God wants us to take responsibility for our lives and have control in that sense. But when it comes to the fundamental values that govern our decisions, when it comes to the very ground on which those decisions are made, and who has the most influence on them, that’s a different story.
That control needs to be with God – and that’s the journey I’ve been on, learning to surrender ulitmate control of my life to God and tried to loosen the controls and allow God into the deepest, core pieces of my heart.
It’s only as I’ve begun to do this that I have realised the unbelievable freedom and the depth of intimacy its possible to have as you begin to realise how much you might have held control over your faith and relationship with God and how much it might have got in the way of real relationship.
The experience of my teenage years into my early twenties, where a lot of painful and difficult things out of my control happened to me, led me to want to control everything, including my faith, and gave me a view of God based on fear of judgement. I found trusting God, surrendring control and accepting grace a very difficult thing to do at one point. I still have my moments now.
But thankfully God got hold of me and opened my eyes – well He started opening them, and that’s what a relationship with God is really about, having our eyes gradually opened, yet never quite seeing the whole.
Jesus used the metaphor of blindness when He talked to the Pharisees and it’s a very apt one.
Jesus wanted to open the eyes of the Pharisees and those who didn’t know God or understand, and in recent years I have found that’s becoming one of my passions too.
I don’t want us to have a limited view of God, one bound by rules and regulations, or religion, or the Bible or even church. We need to have a bigger view, and accept there are things that we don’t know – and that God has reason for that – yet always have our eyes open to learn and understand more.
The Bible and church are both important elements of our faith. They are both key dimensions of our relationship with God and important to our growth into the kind of people God made us to be.
But they aren’t the point.
They aren’t who we worship or what we worship.
Our security and identity can’t come from them alone.
They can form part of our identity and they are tools in helping us discover who we are and live that out practically, and to deal with the everyday issues of life, and need to be part of the rhythms of our lives.
But they aren’t God Himself – and if we don’t remember that they can be tools that we end up using to control our view of God.
God is bigger than the Bible.
God is bigger than any church, or the entire worldwide church.
A healthy realtionship with God embraces the mysterious and unknown and accepts there are things we don’t understand and maybe never will.
A healthy relationship with God accepts that we don’t always have the answers and that we’re not always right, and that we don’t even need to be right all the time.
A healthy relationship with God is journey of discovery, constantly disovering new things about God, finding God in the everyday of life, embracing the mystery, accepting there are things we may never know about God and don’t need to know, accepting that none of us will ever have the final answer, accepting that we will always have new things to learn and new stories to tell, and that God’s kingdom is here and now, and we have a role to play in bringing that to pass, a journey where you accept that you aren’t always right and will make mistakes, but that you learn from those mistakes in relationship with God.
A real, healthy, authentic relationship with God, one of true faith, doesn’t need all the answers.
It trusts that God has all the answers –
including the ones that we don’t
– and that He is perfectly loving, gracious and just, and that ultimately through the cross He has taken care of everything and made the great restoration of all things possible – and started a new creation right in the middle of this one.
It trusts that no matter what happens now, how unfair things seem, how bad things are, how much we want to control things, that ultmately it’s going to be okay and God has it all in hand.
Does that invalidate our suffering? Of course not.
Does that make our pain any easier? No way.
But I have found that it’s often in our suffering that we are closest to God – because when we suffer we cannot control things anymore, we have no more energy left, and so paradoxically God is more able to carry us, and we are more willing to let Him.
Ultimately, whether we like it or not, God is completely out of our control, and there are things about Him we may never know or understand fully – certainly not in this life anyway.
He is a God way out of our control, a God whose love is infinite and who we can trust with our lives.
A God who doesn’t just want us to believe in Him out of fear or as some insurance policy for when we die, and doesn’t want to control us, but wants real relationship with us, He wants to know us initmately and be known by us.
He is a mysterious, all-powerful, perfectly loving, patient and gracious God we can trust.
But, thankfully, not one we can ever control or fully understand.
What would it be like to allow God to take more control of your life?
Does your relationship with God have room for mystery?
Are your eyes open, and are you willing to have them opened some more?
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