“These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.”— Psalms 50.21
I was awakened this morning by my one-year-old son’s voice as he called out, “Papa? Papa?” I turned to him, but, much to my surprise, he was not reaching for me. Instead, he was reaching for the phone. My son calls the phone “Papa”! That was a rude awakening. As I pondered this, I was reminded that I had been on the road too frequently during the first year of his life. God then began to whisper a very stirring realization to my heart.
This is exactly what happens to many believers in their relationships with God. For my son and me, the phone is the conduit through which we have communicated over the past few months. Hence, it is natural for him to confuse my name or my person with the phone. To him, they are one and the same because that is how his he and his mother speak to me most of the time. But the phone is inanimate. The phone cannot hurt him. It is just an object.
Many people in modern society experience the same type of confusion in their interactions with God. They mistake the conduits through which they experience God for God Himself. Such conduits can include churches, holidays, books, families – the list is endless. None of these are perfect representations of God; they are simply conduits through which we can experience Him. Let me illustrate the dangers of this faulty view. When a person is hurt or offended by a church, a pastor, or a well-meaning church member, then, voila! That person is no longer interested in anything that relates to God. It is clear, then, that we must be careful not to confuse any event with God Himself – not even a holiday season, which, although incredibly beautiful, also contains a very dark side for many people.
God is separate! He is not the church. He is not your family. He is not a book that is difficult to understand. He is distinct from these experiences. Does this mean that these “conduits” are wrong? No! God forbid! Though they are fallible, these are the means through which God endeavors to reach us with insights about Himself and His love for us. Why, though, does He use these agents, if they include such risk? Because, as with everything, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. We can identify with our relationship with a church, a pastor, a spouse, a father, or a friend, even though these relationships can also produce pain. We must realize that only God is infallible; only God is purely other-centered. Only God is love. We must always be careful to distinguish between the conduits and God Himself. Something to consider.
I wish you God’s best this week. Also, if you celebrate any, regardless of which ones you choose to observe, happy holidays!