I’ve been trying to figure out God for the last eight years now. I’ve got too many journals stuffed inside of a mail crate I should have returned to the Post Office four years ago. Those journals are filled with questions like, “Are you good? Are you real? Do you like me? Do you want me?”
These are the questions I’ve asked God. To me, God was like this charismatic guy who swept onto the scene and charmed the daylights out of everyone I knew. They talked about Him like He was Fabio. They weren’t skeptics. They didn’t want to do a background check. They raised their arms up and flung their hearts at God without fear that He would break them. They acted like they’d found something, something a lot of people spend a whole life looking for.
I grew up watching other people give their whole lives to God without a second thought while I stood in the back of the room asking questions.
There was a tipping point for this blog nearly a year and a half ago. If you were reading then you saw it happen. I went from being a young woman who folded God into cautiously written sentences to posting boldly about my relationship with Him on the regular. God went from being this distant uncle who occasionally sent postcards from off the coast of Maine to someone knit into my most inner of circles. Today, God could show up at my front door with no place to sleep for the night and I, without hesitation, would give him a bed.
I’m not afraid of God anymore like I used to be. I’m in awe of God in a way that makes me fearful but I am no longer afraid of what He would do to me.
I was afraid to write about God because I thought people would be turned off by it. I would spend this time in the morning communing with God– feeling like He was my best kept secret– and then try to boost people and lift the whole world with the strength of my emotions and feelings. I crashed hard when I could not keep the whole world spinning. I crashed hard and God crawled closer.
I walked out of the ring after a five-month fight with severe depression last year. Every day of that depression was more confusing than the one before it. I sat in waiting rooms and asked myself, “How did I get here? How did my life come down to this?” I was of the belief that if you did the right things– if you were good to people, kissed babies, and didn’t try to stir up drama too often– then you would not have to face hard stuff. Things would naturally align and you’d be spared the depression, the heartbreak, the sickness, and the mess.
You meet God in the mess though. It is often in the mess that you find a man walking towards you with a name-tag that reads “God.” You shake hands because you’re desperate.
I think God stands there the whole time though, even before the crash. I think God, in those moments before the crash, is like Waldo. He’s always in the picture with His bright red cap and wiry glasses. He’s content to wait for the moment that you actually feel called to seek Him out.
I think we– as the eager, self-sufficient perfectionists that we are– ignore red flags and the nudging to slow down as long as we possibly can. We drink more coffee. We worship the hustle. We grow tired of waiting on a God who sometimes seems to be slower than dial-up internet. We say hasty things like, “You aren’t handling this mess fast enough so I am going to take it into my own two hands.”
More mess comes.
And still, God is not afraid to assume the role of custodian.
You know what’s funny? I wrote that last line and I thought to myself, “I cannot write that. There is no way that I could refer to God as a custodian.” The only image in my mind of a custodian is a man in a blue jumpsuit rolling trash cans out of the lunch room. The closest thing I’ve ever known to a custodian is my own father– a man who wore a blue jumpsuit, drove a garbage truck his whole career, and brought food to the table by hauling away the unwanted things of people I grew up with.
Custodian is just one of those words that makes me want to belittle the role because I grew up surrounded by people who taunted me when they found out my dad was their garbage guy. It’s taken me 28 years to realize that my father never worked with junk, he worked with stuff that used to be valuable– used to be chosen– until someone decided they didn’t want it anymore. He’d pull stuff out, he’d shine it up, and it would be new again.
I looked up the word “custodian.” The definition that comes up first shocks me a little bit: one that guards and protects or maintains. I love that definition. I love the idea of God as a protector rather than God as the tyrant people talk him up to be.
I wanted to write today. I wanted to write and this is the only thing that would come out of me. It looks different than what I set out to write but that’s what happens when you invite God into the writing room, you write the sort of stuff you’re afraid will serve no purpose and He uses it to reach some girl in Akron, Ohio who has just gotten her heart broken. She used to feel valued and chosen until someone decided they didn’t want her anymore. And then you and God fist bump later in the day because the girl from Akron, Ohio writes you an email and tells you the words meant something.
You’re thankful you sat down today. You’re thankful you wrote. You’re thankful those three letters– GOD– came out on the page and refused to leave until you clicked “publish.”
That’s God though. He’s not a best kept secret, He’s meant to be shared. He’s meant to be shared especially by someone who grew up fearful that He didn’t want her, didn’t love her, and didn’t see her. He uses someone like that to say to a large group of people, “I do see you. I see the mess. I see how you got here. I’m listening. I’m here.” He uses someone like that, someone who almost walked away from Him, to say, “It’s okay if you don’t have all your God questions answered. I don’t either. Welcome to the club.”
You say a prayer. You click publish. You go get ready for a date and you think about Akron while you’re curling your hair. You think about men in blue jumpsuits who guard and protect.
You’re thankful. You’re thankful for someone who sifts through a pile of the forgotten, pulls something out from the rubble, and says, “You’re not junk. You’re mine.”