Today at church the guest speaker relayed the following story:
One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone's help. So I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient. Then it was time to leave. I couldn't unlock the door. I tried with every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn't do it. I panicked. I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, "I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom." My parents—and likely the neighbors—heard my desperate scream.
"Are you okay?" Mother shouted through the door she couldn't open from the outside. "Did you fall? Have you hit your head?"
"I can't unlock the door!" I yelled. "Get me out of here!"
I wasn't aware of it right then, but Dad raced down the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bedroom window. With adult strength, he pried it open, then climbed into my prison, walked past me, and with that same strength, turned the lock and opened the door.
"Thanks, Dad," I said—and ran out to play.
That's how I thought the Christian life was supposed to work. When I get stuck in a tight place, I should do all I can to free myself. When I can't, I should pray. Then God shows up. He hears my cry—"Get me out of here! I want to play!"—and unlocks the door to the blessings I desire.
Sometimes he does. But now, no longer three years old and approaching sixty, I'm realizing the Christian life doesn't work that way. And I wonder, are any of us content with God? Do we even like him when he doesn't open the door we most want opened—when a marriage doesn't heal, when rebellious kids still rebel, when friends betray, when financial reverses threaten our comfortable way of life, when the prospect of terrorism looms, when health worsens despite much prayer, when loneliness intensifies and depression deepens, when ministries die?
God has climbed through the small window into my dark room. But he doesn't walk by me to turn the lock that I couldn't budge. Instead, he sits down on the bathroom floor and says, "Come sit with me!" He seems to think that climbing into the room to be with me matters more than letting me out to play.
I don't always see it that way. "Get me out of here!" I scream. "If you love me, unlock the door!" Dear friend, the choice is ours. Either we can keep asking him to give us what we think will make us happy—to escape our dark room and run to the playground of blessings—or we can accept his invitation to sit with him, for now, perhaps, in darkness, and to seize the opportunity to know him better and represent him well in this difficult world.
I am ashamed to know that feeling of not liking God. In fact, when I'm not liking God I generally try to pretend that I do. Which is probably much worse because He knows I am pretending. It might be a lot like being in junior high. And being a girl. And finding out that whoever was supposed to be your BFF told another friend that you were ugly and dorky-when in reality you were just slightly awkward. And then you found out that she said it but you hated confrontation so much that you never told her you knew, you just cried alone at night. Except not really like that because God isn't in junior high, he probably doesn't even have a BFF, and he doesn't mind confrontation. Ask the lions. And Goliath. And practically everyone else in the Bible. So all I'm saying is that it's pointless to pretend we're best friends with God when we don't feel terribly friendly.
I wish I could always reason with my heart when God is breaking me, molding me, making me. My head says that it's exactly why I won't let Garrett put his fingers in outlets or run into the street. He thinks the outlets are playgrounds for his digits and the street is the promised land. I know that neither is true. So why do I question my heavenly father when I know that he has my best interest at heart?
Even though my mind tells my heart to worship, to listen, to obey, my heart doesn't always comply. I find myself yelling, "Get me out of here! If you love me, unlock the door! If you're going to break me and mold me and make me, love me enough to give me the desires of my heart! You know them better than anyone! Let me out of this bathroom, I want to go play!"
God sits there, quietly, with his legs crossed and his back up against the tub. I flail and pound on the door and sob. He probably doesn't like it. Sometimes, maybe, it even pulls on his heartstrings a little, like when tears run down Garrett's face because it's dinnertime but he wants another cookie. But God sets his jaw and doesn't waver. When I am tired I crawl up beside him and he tells me that he has something better in store. Something more glorious than I ever could have imagined on my own. Slowly and very deliberately, I am learning the truth of his vision. But it is a decision that I have to make every single minute. Some days I remember to sit beside him before I senselessly try to beat the door down. Some days I bash my head against it for hours. Some days, despite how hard I try, I forget to like the one who made me.
I am not proud of these days, but I rejoice in the knowledge that I worship a forgiving God. He is not a junior high girl, he is the Almighty and the Amen.