I want him to tell me what to do and then leave me alone.
by Taylor Gahm
I prefer a transactional dynamic in regard to my interactions with God. A sort of give-and-take, whereas I do my part, and He does His. I go to church, I give to charity, I love my neighbor, and in return He keeps me safe and pays my bills. This approach allows me to avoid having any kind of honest or vulnerable interaction with the Divine, leaving me feeling much more comfortable and in control of my life. Surprisingly, this has actually worked for a really long time. Until now.
After years of entertaining my notion that our interactions were symbiotic, God is strangling my idolatry to death right before my eyes. No more trades. No more deals. No more negotiations. And now I’m able to see that I don’t really want God to love me—I just want Him to tell me what to do and then leave me alone, because coming to grips with the fact that God actually loves me requires me to acknowledge a worth in myself far greater than I can bear.
Of course I want God’s favor on my life and to be happy—we all do. But do I really want God to know me? Because, me knowing God means I am brought into the presence of the Totally Awesome. But God knowing me means that He pokes around my heart only to find that I am a horrifically self-centered and predictably miserable failure of a human being (read: I suck). Not really the kind of swap I was hoping for in my encounters with the Divine.
I want to know God so I can figure out what makes Him tick and then use that to get on His good side. It’s the exact same thing I do in all of my human relationships. I don’t want people to know me either—I just want them to like me. I figure if people like me, they won’t see my shortfalls so easily—and if they do, maybe they won’t care. And if I can’t get them to like me, I try to position myself just outside the reach of their ‘normal’ lives.
I have spent a lot of time doing this with my career in the entertainment industry: I attempt to hide my insecurity by creating a larger-than-life persona for others to celebrate with accolades, awards, and honors. Such achievements left me untouchable by mere mortals and allowed me to insulate myself from the pain of vulnerability. There is nothing like praise, adoration, and constant solicitations for advice to help me forget that I have no idea what I am doing and to distract everyone from finding the cracks in my foundation.
I still struggle with this in writing these essays and working on my art collection. I am prone to avoid working inwardly by thinking outwardly about what others may need or want to hear, or about what will make me look smart, gifted, or wise. When I focus on the audience, I sink. I forget that above all I write to find honesty within myself—an honesty that has a way of leading me back to the Love of God. When I focus on honesty, vulnerability, and the present moment of what God is doing in me, I somehow keep afloat. I’m trying to be more vulnerable, but I still find ways to say, “Hey, I’m doing awesome. No need to probe any further.” I still want people to like me, or at least see me as a safe place that needs little to no further investigation: “Nothing to see here people, move along,” is my modus operandi.
But that’s not what I really want.
I desperately want to be known at the depths of who I am, for who I really am. But I know from experience that whenever anyone gets too close, they get disappointed or disgusted with what they find, and they leave. So it’s not that I don’t want to be known; it’s just that I remember what happens when others get too close and see who I really am.
And that’s why I keep God at arm’s length.
I can’t have God lurking around in the depths of my heart. I can’t afford for Him to see me for who I really am because He ain’t gonna like (let alone approve of) what He finds. There are skeletons in my closet, and for that matter, there are probably still some bodies down there that aren’t even dead yet.
And then God wrecks me as I realize that, while I’ve been tidying up the living room, He’s been sitting with the skeletons in my closet, patiently waiting for me to join Him. Not only does God know about my junk, He’s been sitting squarely in it, offering me unlimited unconditional love, acceptance, and approval. Unfazed by the stench of death, He comes from within the brokenness of my life to rescue me—not from outside of it. He’s not waiting for me to tidy up before I let Him in, He’s already inside waiting to blow the place wide open (starting with the closets).
Unlike a god that stands at my door like the city inspector, unable to contain his joy at the thought of condemning the place, this God is flirting with me, recklessly pursuing me, and hopelessly loving me from within my dilapidated abode. This God isn’t ready to issue citations for every little detail that is out of code. This God brought a wrecking ball.
Because while one god wants to renovate the framework in order to bring it up to code, this God wants to truly fulfill and honor the code by demolishing the framework altogether. This God waits not for an invitation to live within me, but instead insists that I live in Him.
This is what I call, “Crashing and burning in the wrecking love of God.” It leaves me thankful, thinking that love doesn’t always wait for an invitation after all. Because although love never manipulates, intimidates, or dominates, it always overcomes.
Love wins because there is no way God isn’t going to get what He wants. And yet even as I write this, I find myself struggling to believe in the possibility of such a God. As if this idea might be poison, I warily take a sip and wait to see if this drink brings life or death.
Admitting that “I don’t believe God loves me, and I just want Him to tell me what to do” is not a confession of my will, nor is it the desire of my heart; it is but an observation of my actual response to the Love of God in my life thus far. Saying I believe in something and then acting contrarily is called being out of integrity with myself.
It’s when I say my body is a temple, but then I treat it like an amusement park.
It’s when I say I trust God for provision in my life, but then I hoard my resources like a frightened orphan.
It’s when I say I want to selflessly love my wife, but then I too often make sex all about me.
And it’s when I say God loves me, but then I’m scared to death, so I push Him away, opting for a transactional relationship.
Of course I want to receive the Love of God. I desperately want to be able to take down the barbed wire barricades in my heart so that I might bask in His Love, but I don’t know how. I can only surrender that I don’t know how to surrender, as I give to God the helplessness of not knowing how to give Him all that is me. I keep sweeping the floors of my heart, because I don’t know how to put the broom down and walk into the closet with Him.
And so my leap of faith today is that I choose to trust Him in that closet without me. I accept that He is sitting smack dab in the middle of my deepest, darkest secrets and desires. He’s sitting there patiently, in complete awareness of His surroundings. He isn’t freaking out, and He isn’t quoting Bible verses at me.
And for the record, I do realize that the ‘correct answer’ at this point would be to say that I’m putting the broom down and walking into the closet with Him. But I have no idea what it really means to put the broom down today, and I’m tired of conjuring up the correct answers at the expense of experiencing God’s love.
So I’m not gonna do it anymore.
And if I’m the only one that doesn’t ‘get it,’ then so be it. I can choose to be ‘correct,’ or I can choose to be free. So as one god requires that I tidy up before he visits, this God is sitting in the closet holding up my skeletons with a huge grin on His face, because the skeletons in my closet don’t prevent me from experiencing God; they are an invitation into Him.
Source: Recovering Faith: Words for the Way. Volume 2 [Kelly Hall, ed]