I’ve had a lot of people saying things to me over the past few months like, “It must be really nice to have a faith right now. With everything happening in the world, I bet your faith is giving you a lot of comfort.” Or “I wish I had faith in something right now.”
And as much as I would love to say that I am not doubting anything and that my faith is carrying me through the objectively horrible year that is 2020 (I mean, murder hornets? A pandemic? Systemic racism?), I find myself struggling to answer. Rather than feeling like life is easier right now, it feels like my faith is making things harder.
Not only do I have to juggle my own personal responses to these crises, but I feel responsible to respond how Jesus would respond. Jesus constantly calls out injustice when He sees it, yet He manages to discern the best way to do it every time. Sometimes He lovingly approaches a woman at a well; other times He is turning over tables in the temple. Despite those reactions being completely different, you never doubt that Jesus is responding out of love for those around him and for his Father.
I feel like Jesus always knew how to act because He knew the heart of the Father, which is for justice, peace, love, and reconciliation. But I’m not sure that I know that God well enough to know what the correct response is. I am unsure of the Father’s heart because I don’t think I know the Father.
Now, before you think I’m saying something completely heretical, I mean that I have a version of the Father in my head that I think is wrong. I’ve heard that our perception of the Father comes from our relationships with our own father and with formative, important relationships in our life. So, while Jesus may know a Father that is infinitely loving, eternally patient, and consistently good, I can’t even fathom a God like that.
I see a God demanding perfection, consistently disapproving of my shortcomings, and thoroughly disappointed in my humanity.
This is the kind of Father that I have known over the years. Perhaps known is the wrong word. This is the Father that I have been afraid to know all these years.
Question – Why?
Why would I want to get to know the Father when I am afraid that He will reject and judge the human qualities that I am unable to separate from myself? Why would I want a relationship with someone that I feel is judging me all the time?
The events of the last few months have shown me that we all model what we have been taught. And if we have experienced compassion, blessing, the benefit of the doubt, and love, then we will be able to act out in those qualities. When we experience shame, belittlement, fear, and judgement, there is no space for justice, there is no space for peace, and there is no space for love. As Leo Tolstoy said, “Where there is love, there is God also.”
In some ways, I feel like the world is re-teaching me the heart of the Father, both through what I see and what I don’t see in those around me.
The Father has a heart of justice – of knowing and acting in truth and fairness for all people. But that is not the world that I see around me. I see a world crying out for equality and reparation; I see a world hurting because we are not able to act justly until we have known justice. I see a world crying out for the love of the Father to be lived out in each of us.
I think I’ve had it wrong this whole time. Maybe I didn’t need to find the Father’s heart before I can begin to respond to the world around me. I think that through striving for mercy, kindness, and justice for those around me, I am finding the heart of the Father.
Rebecca constantly strives to practically love people around her. She also loves fuzzy socks, her five sisters, pink and orange alstroemerias, calligraphy, and sour gummy worms.