I have been thinking a lot about what it means to have a relationship with God. What it means to have faith in something…someone. What that would tangibly look like. I think as a recovering evangelical I have often been caught in a tension between what I was raised to believe and what life experiences have caused me to believe.
I knew what it looked like to “experience” God when I was growing up in the church, going to summer camp and youth group and on mission trips. I was supposed to read my Bible and pray, and do my devotions and attend worship services and witness to my heathen friends and read books by inspirational authors that taught me how to experience my spirituality in greater ways. Bonus that I had the “Four Spiritual Laws” memorized, went on spiritual retreats and was a part of four zillion Christian organizations. I was the quintessential spiritual girl in my high school. It even got so bad that some kids nicknamed me “Julia Christ Superstar” – but I considered that a compliment. Being self-righteous was my duty and I felt in my heart that I was supposed to judge people in the name of the Lord.
But all of that looks different now. I can’t just experience God this way. I can’t blindly have the kind of faith that trusts God “just because”. I don’t believe in God because my parents told me to or because I grew up attending church and it was what I was supposed to do. I need further reason.
I have traveled the world and seen some pretty horrific things. And now I have to wrestle with a God that can be loving and trustworthy but also allow little girls to be trafficked and sold for sex in South Asia. A God that knows about my own back yard when I’m walking the streets of LA late at night having conversations with women who are prostituted that have either become numb to any hope that exists or lost it completely. What answers do I have to offer them? What evidence of a promising and saving relationship with God can I articulate or show them?
I have interacted with persons of so many different religions, sexual orientations, ethnicities, theologies, ethics, politics and outlooks on life since those first days of relationship with God. God could not possibly look the same to me now. My perception and knowledge of God has been shaped and changed by those encounters and experiences. But what does it look like to commune with God now? I really have no idea. For some reason God does not seem as accessible and relational. The more you learn about God, the more you develop your theology, the more questions you have. The questions are good – I love the uncertainty, but I don’t know how to love and question someone at the same time. I don’t know how to completely trust and doubt someone in the same moment.
It has been a long time since God looked as simple as he did in my “just believe” days. I know I can’t just believe – but I don’t know how to have a relationship when we have so many questions. I don’t know what it means to listen and to speak when God is so intangible. But I don’t think I’ll ever figure it out until the Christian community learns to dialogue rather than fight with one another. If we continue to bash one another’s ideas and hold so tightly to how we think God looks – I think God will remain very inaccessible and far away.