Christian life is the dynamic interplay between the biblical story on the one hand and your own personal experience on the other. Between God’s salvation history and your own salvation story lays your relationship with God and others.
We used to call our salvation stories testimonies. But hear me clearly on this: your salvation story is much more than your conversion story, and testimonies are more than the telling of your conversion experience. Your salvation story tells all the ways that God has been working in your life, speaking into your life B all those ways in which God has been revealing His grace and His power and His glory. Your salvation story consists of all those experiences, persons, times of crisis, and moments of unbounded joy where God revealed Himself to you.
The best I can do is to share my experience with God. I cannot tell you what He means to you. I cannot even say He ought to mean this or that to you. When I talk about God, I have to become intensely personal. I could recite the nature of God from some theology book and it would mean little. Or I can share with you my experience with God and hope that it will signify something; I can hope that it will strike a chord in your life.
One of the things I have experienced is that I can get angry with Him, like Job did. One of the first things we learn as children is that if we get angry with our parents or someone in the adult world, they can totally squash us physically. Thus, we learn to repress or suppress our anger. I think we carry over that lesson to the person of God and repress our hostility to Him.
It was in clinical training in a hospital setting in my seminary days that I became angry at God. I saw the intense human suffering, the pain, the talents and gifts squandered by disease, mental illness, alcoholism, cancer, and myriad other diseases; and I became angry at God. “Why couldn’t You make a world and create us where we could be free and yet not suffer like this?” This was my question to God. I learned from my teachers that it was okay to be angry with God and that because He is understanding and merciful, He would bear my anger.
I still get angry with Him, or with some well-meaning soul who, in a tragedy wants to comfort me with one of those hackneyed clichés: “Oh, it’s God’s will,” or, “It’s happened for the best, you know,” or, “Some great sin must have caused this problem.”
These were the answers Job’s friends gave him. Job was angry at God and asked for equal time, challenged God to a debate, and repeatedly asked why the deaths of his family and the deterioration of his body had come to pass. Job’s anger was honest.
It’s okay to be angry with God. To be angry with Him and to express it is a lot healthier than burning on the inside and letting an internal rage destroy us. And when those times of anger come, God is an awfully good listener. He is big enough to handle my anger.
Not only do I get angry with Him like Job, but on the other end of the spectrum, I dance before Him like David did. We have found that message of dancing and celebrative joy so difficult to understand. The Bible does more than any other book I know to melt stained glass saints into flesh and blood human beings.
Do you remember David’s story? He had been selected as King over Israel and he went to Kiriath-jearim to get the Ark of the Covenant which had been in hiding and disuse for some time. He brought it to Jerusalem, and on the way David did a dance before the Lord.
I love the famous story of the little court jester who was too small and lame to be a soldier, and thus was given the role of entertaining in the palace by tumbling and juggling. One day a priest found him in the cathedral B yea, even up before the high altar B going through his entertainment routine; and he asked him why he was behaving thus in God’s house. The jester replied: “It’s all I have, the only gift I know how to give. And because I love God so, I wanted to offer Him my best.” Francis of Assisi heard that story and took the jester as his model. He resolved to be God’s juggler, His holy fool, celebrating by word and deed the joy of the Lord he felt.
So, I get angry with Him like Job, I dance before Him like David, and I disappoint Him like Simon Peter. I have always identified with Simon Peter’s ability to make mistakes. He was aggressive, brash, had fits of temper, and was not-too-holy a disciple. He had a shadow self that included the possibility of violence, and he made great confessions but turned right around and lived out of other resources. He was spiritually a “slow learner.”
I am sure there are times when I disappoint God with my mistakes and errors. I can imagine that God must turn to the angel Gabriel and say: “Well, Gabe, that Andrea just blew another one. How long do you think it will be before he learns how to do it right?”
Do you do that, too? Do you disappoint God? Do you squander His grace, or waste it on some issue that does not merit a continental dime’s worth of energy? Do you mess up relationships and say things you do not mean or should not have said? I have an idea we all do. Some of us talk about it, confess it, try to be human about it, and find redemption through it; and some of us do not. But I think we all do it B we all disappoint God sometimes.
Yes, I get angry with Him, I dance before Him in lighter moments, I disappoint Him; and sometimes I walk very, very close to Him like Enoch. The Old Testament tells about Enoch who walked with God and it was a very intimate kind of closeness.
Sometimes this closeness to God comes through persons. When I see new growth and a new horizon open up, God is there. When they touch me and say, “I love you.” When they say, “Thank you for what you said,” or, “Can I help you?” Or, “Let me minister to you, now.” Those are times when, through His servants, God walks close to me.
I do not maintain this closeness with Him all the time. But sometimes, in those very beautiful, vulnerable moments, I feel close to this One called God. Sometimes it comes when I am out alone, soaking in the wonder of His created order. And I feel God very, very close; and I thank Him for His world and His warmth, for my family and my church, and for all who have loved me into my present and those who will love me into the future.
What a fantastic God He is to me! I can get angry with Him; I can dance before Him; I disappoint Him; and occasionally, in those tender, wondrous moments, I walk close with Him.
We all are here today because of the power of an unseen hand, because of a grace more amazing than we can ever imagine B you, no less than I. Look deep within yourself, look well beneath the surface of life, look far beyond the limits of sight and sound and taste and touch, and see with the eyes of faith that hand and know that grace and tell our salvation story.