Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bored with God

I told God recently that I was bored with him. Pretty gutsy of me, eh? I couldn't believe my own audacity, and yet that was how I felt, and I figured I should at least be honest about my offensive feelings since God knows them anyhow. And I wondered, what would provoke me to tell the God of the universe that I was finding him uninteresting, ho hum, nothing to write home about? What brought me to this point? And did I really mean what I said?

After discussing it with my ever-lovin' husband, I realized that what I meant when I told God I was bored with him was that I was actually bored with the ways of knowing him that I have experienced thus far. 25 years of life in the evangelical world has filled my brain with tons of repeated words and ceremony. I'm bored with praise choruses. I'm bored with organ music. I'm bored with guitars and mediocre worship leaders. I'm bored with sermons, and psalms and phrases like "Blessed be the name of the Lord," and "God, we come before you today," and "Lord, we just want to praise you." I'm sick of the word praise. I'm tired of singing. I'm bored with quiet time. I'm tired of prayers that only seem like my own voice shuttling out into the void with no particular answer. All of it, the trappings, the language, the expectations, the experiences. Not that I'm planning to leave the church or something. I just wanted God to know that the sameness of it all is getting to me.

But I'm not bored with God himself. When I think of who God is and what it will be like some day to stand in his presence, I know I will be overcome. Boredom will not be a problem.

Sometimes when I think about Jesus in particular, I just see that famous painting of him with shoulder length blonde hair and blue eyes, and I see his mouth moving with some Monty-Pythonesque chin as he preaches. I pondered this image, and I wondered why it was there or what was causing my boredom overall. Part of it, I believe, is because I am not engaged actively right now in an activity that contributes to the kingdom. But a recent read with C. S. Lewis also revealed perhaps another problem--perhaps I was falling prey to images. Although it's a long quote, I'd like to post Lewis's thoughts here because what he said broke through to me and is helping me figure out how to pray about my little ennui period. So here goes, with short exposition to follow.

From C. S. Lewis's A Grief Observed:

It doesn't matter that all the photographs of H. are bad.It doesn't matter—not much—if my memory of her is imperfect. Images, whether on paper or in the mind, are not important for themselves. Merely links. Take a parallel from infinitely higher sphere. Tomorrow morning a priest will give me a little round, thin, cold, tasteless wafer. Is it a disadvantage—is it not in some ways an advantage—that it can't pretend the least resemblance to that with which it unites me?

I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H., not something that is like her. A really good photograph might become in the end a snare, a horror, and an obstacle.

Images, I suppose, have their use or they would not have been so popular. (It makes little difference whether they are pictures and statues outside the mind or imaginative constructions within it.) To me, however, their danger is more obvious. Images of the Holy easily become holy images—sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers.

All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality. And this, not any image or memory, is what we are to love still, after she is dead.

Ah ha! I had recognized my problem. I wasn't bored with God in reality. I was bored with God in the abstract. I was bored with my idea of him, and with my experience with him, often dictated by my image of him. Amazing. Revolutionary. I was bored with the part of church life that I was seeing, but not with the reality of the church in the world. Maybe i was bored with my own self-constructed images of God and his work in the world, forgetting that the reality of God and his amazing narrative of redemption has all the twists and turns and interest one could want--so much so that I can't begin to wrap my tiny little bored brain around it.

But how do I break through the icons to the reality? I don't think I can do it myself. I think God himself has to break through and triumph over my ideas of him.

That night as I lay in bed, the same old image of Christ with the blonde hair and the blue eyes and the Monty-Python mouth appeared in my mind. And suddenly, from behind, the image began to rip open. Something was alive behind it, pushing through with such power and light that I couldn't even see what it was. And then I fell asleep.


Jack said...

Wow, great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

As a former worship leader, I must defend the practice of "praise venting" ... "We just want to praise you, Lord." etc... it's not all bad. A bit tired, yes, but it's not all bad.

I also will throw up if I'm ever forced to sing Matt Redman's "Heart of Worship" one more time. . .

Becky said...

THanks Jack. It's nice to know people are still checking in on my blog since I haven't written anything new in over 2 months!! Ahrg. Blog slacker. Anyhow, I'm going to try to do better.

When are we getting together in Lansing???? Jeff and I are ready for some Lumanog family time!

Ellen said...

This reminds me a bit of the cardboard Jesus in the skits at Staff Conference a few years ago...

Al Hsu said...

Glad you're back blogging. Nice post. So what if someone is actually bored with God and not just bored with Christian stuff? Or, as is often the case with many of us longtime residents of the evangelical subculture, we're just fatigued by it all? I've thought at times that evangelicalism has such an emphasis on the active Christian life that its very nature causes burnout. Then again, other traditions that might be more sacramental or incarnational might have the downside of being too passive. Not an easy balance to navigate, and with life being as full as it is, there's only so much energy I want to devote to working all this out!

Stacey said...

I've sooo been there. But I'm afraid that my boredom isn't just church. Sometimes I try to read the Bible and just stare at the pages. However, I always find the Lord showing me His love in ways I don't expect, and realize that my heart is His.

Ellen said...

Hi Becky,

I tagged you at my pressure ;)

annette said...

Hi Becky - through the odd connections formed by google i came across your blog (i was looking for mark noll's poem "scot's form in the suburbs"). I liked that post so went to your latest stuff-also very enjoyable to a complete stranger-but decided to say HI after reading Bored with God. Last Sunday my husband and I had one of the most spiritually encouraging times we'd had in a long time hanging out with Lorna & Erica, two girls from Scotland being blown around the world by the Spirit on a project called Soul Touch. if you want to check it out they're blog is
Somehow it always surprises us when God shows up. May He blow away the dust and cobwebs so you see his glory and feel the weight of yours.
annette gulick

Jimi said...

Hi Becky,
I just stumbled upon this by typing in Google "Bored with God". I've been bored with Him for many years actually. I've read the bible so many times, I can't even open it up without going, "I've read this like a million times already". I'm so disgusted at church I want to throw up. It seems so syrupy and smarmy, not at all how we are in real life. My best friend is in his last days or hours with cancer and I wish it was me lying there instead. If I hear the words "have a personal relationship with Jesus one more time"... What is that anyway? When I became a Christian, the concept seemed so exciting to me. Now... There's so much that could be written on this subject. I'll bet there are many who feel this way but don't admit it. It's no wonder sin looks so seductive to us. I'm afraid that if He really did speak to me, I'd only get the Job speach; "Since you're so smart, tell me"... Now that I think about it, I guess I'm better off keeping Him at a distance for now.