Ever Wonder How Abba Feels?

The moments when I think Abba has rattled my cage are always unforeseen and usually have nothing to do with the train of thought which I felt was most important at that point in time when the rattling took place. This morning was one of those times.

I had just crawled back into bed to begin my morning devotions, prayers and e-mail checks, as is my morning habit after retrieving my first cup of java of the day from the kitchen. And unexpected as usual, mid second sip of coffee and before I could even get my devotional opened to July 23, or the covers re-arranged, He was interjecting Himself into my thoughts. This morning the thought was important enough to me that I stopped what I was doing and grabbed my “Nothing NoteBook.” This is what I wrote.

“I had a thought this morning … I know how I felt when my children rejected me, because I didn’t turn out to be what they wanted in a “father.” How does God feel when we reject him because He doesn’t turn out to be what we wanted in a God, because we don’t take the time to get to know Him; really get to know him?”

It’s a thought worth some contemplation. When I received the 2 e-mailed rejections from my daughter and oldest son earlier this year I was first angry and then that graduated to angrier. Both feelings then settled into a batch of hurt-chip angry cookies. My conservative Christian upbringing taught that I wasn’t supposed to feel that way. I was supposed to be magnanimous and instantly forgiving and forgetting of the injury because, after all, Jesus would be wouldn’t He? Really? What Would Jesus Do? Before we even get to the whip in the temple episode maybe a review of a couple of earlier incidents is in order.

We get a few ideas in just the first few chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve, His first born children, disobeyed the one simple directive about the tree in the middle of the garden and they were evicted without ceremony and subsequently punished in ways that persist to this day. A few chapters later in Genesis 6:6-8 “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

God was “grieved in His heart?” That’s what it says in the NKJV. God was hurt and He lashed out … big time. Later, after He’s started over with Noah and Sons, He promises to never, ever do it again.

In Exodus 32:9 in response to the Israelites worshiping a golden calf God was ticked; so ticked in fact that he told Moses to get out of the way so He could do away with them and start over with Moses. But Moses pleaded with God to stay His hand, pointing out how it would look to the rest of mankind if it looked like God had led his “special possession” to the wilderness and then killed them all just because they misbehaved. And so it went; generation after generation after generation; God’s “chosen” people continued to “choose” not to like Him because He wasn’t what they thought He should be. And so it went for more than 1100 years until God just shut up and left the Hebrews to their own devices for more than 400 years.

When Jesus was nearing the end of His ministry, even He expressed frustration with those closest to Him at times, and certainly when He cleared the temple of the sacrilege He found there, with the whip He made while He thought it over. So, I return to the original thought above.

“How does God feel when we reject him because He didn’t turn out to be what we wanted in a God, because we don’t take the time to get to know Him; really get to know him?”

How do we fragile, delicate works of Abba’s art, feel when those we love, especially our children, reject us because we aren’t what they think we should be, so they can relate to us better? Are we hurt? Of course! Are we angry? Sure! Do we react in anger? You bet! Is this part of being made in God’s own image?

Do we have the same reactions when our children don’t turn out the way we thought they should, or according to the plans we had for them? Asked and answered already isn’t it? So why do we think that Abba should feel any different toward us than we do about our own creations? The answer to that could be that even though we are made in His image, we aren’t perfect parents; God is. The key for me is that forgiveness is not the same thing as acceptance, and acceptance of the person is not the same as acceptance of their behavior. And furthermore, I must follow Abba’s example as closely as I humanly can.

I forgive completely and like the father in the story of the prodigal son, I let them go their own way. It’s okay for me to be unhappy with their rejection, and also like the father of the prodigal son I will be overjoyed if they ever come home and ask to be forgiven, but also like that father, I will not chase after them and ask their forgiveness anymore than Abba will chase after me for the purpose of asking my forgiveness.

It’s up to me to seriously think about how Abba feels when I think I know how He should react to my many mis-directions of act and thought. How in the world does an imperfect human being begin to understand how a perfect Heavenly Father feels when we try to define the way we think He should be?

Billy Graham’s former close friend and associate pastor in their youth, Charles Templeton is a perfect example of the result of that kind of thinking. He abandoned his calling and faith because of a picture in Life magazine. It was a picture of a grief stricken black woman in Northern Africa holding a child who had died of starvation. Templeton decided that if God existed that would never have happened; that the horrors of civilization would be non-existent.

So therefore Templeton concluded … that since God didn’t work the way Charles Templeton thought He should that God doesn’t exist. In other words, for all his knowledge of the verses in the bible Templeton never understood that he didn’t understand that a genuine faith in God required what Jesus said about the children: “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith (I read the context of faith here as “trust”) will never get into the kingdom of God.”

How do you think God feels when we reject Him, because we never took the time to really get to know Him and worship (accept) Him as He is?

A Final Word … I think!

Okay … I admit it! I do! I’ve spent way too much time on the past; particularly my past. I’m an amateur historian, in that history fascinates me and no history fascinates me more than my own. That fact should not be confused with a wish to re-wind and re-do my own history, because with one exception I don’t have the slightest desire to re-live and re-do any of my/our past. Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, known as George Santayana, in his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1, wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I have heard this paraphrased and misquoted for years, but the point has always struck a chord with me.

Some people would think that a person who has devoted four years of her life to writing her own history might have a hidden desire to turn back the clock. It’s not entirely off the mark if you consider the last line of Dear Mom and Dad where I quote my youthful icon Dennis the Menace, saying that he wished he was three again knowing what he knew at the age of four. One of the lessons of detailing one’s life, as I did, is that you realize the mistakes that were repeated, sometimes frequently. I guess I was by definition, somewhat insane if you apply another quote, attributed a number of people, but is currently found on page 23 of the sixth edition of Alcoholics Anonymous. The statement is this: “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” By that definition I spent a good portion of my life insane.

In the last few weeks I have come at last to a realization and thus a concluding moment in my story; my history as it were. Mind you, it wasn’t the result of a carefully crafted line of thought which led me to that point. It was, though, a singular moment which nearly drove me to my knees soon after we began the musical worship portion of our church service this past Sunday. The background for this incident is this:

Throughout Marilyn’s illness, I/he refused steadfastly to acknowledge the reality of her impending death. The result of that sad and hopeless situation was that, although I said goodbye to her one night after she was asleep, her prince never did and … neither did she. In relating 3 separate incidents which occurred soon after Marilyn’s death, I shared what I knew beyond a doubt to be visitations of her spirit. Two of those were consoling and one was an expression of displeasure, but there was still no “Goodbye”; no “Au Revoir.” She was just gone except for those three incidents none of which contained a goodbye.

Her sister told me later that I should know what Marilyn would say to me if she could. “Get over it and get on with it!” and her favorite statement when life presented one of its disappointments; “Oh well, NEXT!” But I didn’t. I couldn’t and I didn’t understand why.

Then last Sunday, in a totally unexpected moment she was there in front of me, not beside as before, saying “Goodbye!” And then she appeared to walk away on a road which ran up and over a hill. Near the top she paused a moment, looked back and seemed to say, “It’s not forever, just for now.” A pain I’d never experienced, not even at her death pierced me to the core. But, it was a pain like the removal of a barbed arrow that had been lodged in my chest for so long I’d gotten used to it until it was finally removed with no warning, in one quick movement on a Sunday morning.

With the memory of my past intact to avoid being condemned to repeat it and a determination to avoid the insanity of repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, as a last tribute to my bride, the amazing and even in death, enduring Marilyn Folk Bishop, at least for the time being, “Oh Well, NEXT!” Yes dear.

Sights, Sounds and Emotions

Yes, I know, I’ve been silent and AWOL for a couple of weeks. I’ve been pre-occupied with things of the mind which I hope will be at least partially explained by what follows.

There are two things in my life that are so intertwined with emotions, both joy filled and grief stricken which I am, at times, incapable of separating. I am, by nature a very visual person; a fact which makes one of those two things seem somewhat improbable. Those two things are history, my history, and music; the improbable.

Once I got beyond the basic rudiments of reading in the first grade, and the simplicity of “Dick and Jane” and “See Spot Run,” I became fascinated with history. The fascination was so intense at times that I wished I could have lived in the times of past heroes and heroines. The desire to live in the past became so absorbing that I became known to all as a “daydreamer.” The times I desired to visit and the histories I wanted to be a part of varied from Ancient Egypt, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Genghis Khan and the glory of Rome to the civilizations of central America, the American Revolution and of course, the American west of the 19th century. If desire alone could have created a time machine then I would have been credited with its invention. That, of course, is not a part of my history.

When I was writing down my own history in “Dear Mom and Dad” I relied on the memories of my mind, the memories evoked by the notes buried in Day Timers and letters from the past, as well as thousands of photographs, to piece together a realistic picture of my history. The problem with notes and pictures alone is that they frequently do not generate the critical ingredient in accurate memory of the emotions of the time. It’s akin to watching a silent movie. For me it’s the music of the time which is the yeast that causes the flat bread of my history to rise.

I simply see no use in reviewing my own history without benefit of the sounds of the music that was so prevalent at the time, even though the complete memory created by the music often results in profound sadness and melancholy. But that is not the real problem for me. My problem is an insatiable craving for knowledge of the future; what will my history include next year, next month, next week; even tomorrow?

Intellectually I know that spending so much as a nano-second on what the future holds is a complete waste of the precious time I have left, but try as I might I inevitably find myself consumed with an insatiable desire to know the future. I cannot begin to count the times I have found myself not just pondering what the future holds for me, but obsessing over it at times. In “Dear Mom and Dad” I quoted a saying of unknown origin not once but a couple of times, which is, “Worry is only the interest you pay on trouble before you have it.” One would think that by now I would have that so ingrained in my being that I would be incapable of worry, but that’s not the case.

If my faith were as strong as I like to think it is, that faith would have put an end to worrying for me. The truth of the matter is that my faith in God is totally unshaken. My faith in my understanding of God and his plan for me, however, is quite shaky at times and the past few weeks have been one of those times. My solution has been to review my own history. The way I chose to do that was to complete a project I’d started, but had been reluctant to continue because of the memories I knew would be resurrected in the process . I devoted most of a week to scanning all the pictures of Marilyn that were in 2 huge albums of 400 plus pictures each. As I worked, I listened to her extensive collection of music. The combination of the visual history in the photographs and the music she loved; a sort of living in the past, helped me avoid the debilitating worry over my own future history; namely was there a job in my future history or eviction from my home?

On the wall above my desk is a framed quote from Proverbs. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take.”

When will I ever learn? Worry was indeed the interest I paid on trouble I never had.