You Found Me, Just a Little Late

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lost and insecure, 
You found me, You found me.
Lying on the floor, 
Surrounded, surrounded.
Why'd you have to wait?
Where were you? Where were you?
Just a little late,
You found me, you found me.
-The Fray

That song captures the complex mix of closeness and nearness, of intimacy and pain, that we all know from our experience of God in this world. We hear the same kind of thing in the Psalms, oscillating from passionate cries of abandonment, "Why have you forsaken me?" "How long Lord?" to expressions of tenderness "Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely." Music, including the Psalms, and including this song by the Fray is often able to capture these kinds of contradictions of life that we all know and live with much better than our theologies or philosophies can.

In part, this is due to the motivation behind what we write. Often when I write theology I am trying to say something helpful, trying to build trust, encourage growth, and so on. That's a good place to come from, I'm trying to help and to do good. But I will never forget the time that a person said to me, "When you speak of a relationship with with God, it sounds so close and intimate. It sounds so simple and easy. But in my experience there is a lot of struggle and doubt. I often feel that God is far away." Now, that was actually my experience too. Sometimes I felt God's nearness, and it felt like home. Those experiences have forever changed me. But I also know the experience of utter darkness, feeling that I am alone in the universe, feeling that the whole thing is just wishful thinking. Yet I had apparently given the false impression that I don't.

An artist writes from a different place. Art is at its best when it does not try to have a message (even a noble and good message), but simply speaks vulnerably and honestly. When it does this, it touches something in us that recognizes the same experiences and feelings, touching and moving us. That's why it so important that we let art and music and story impact our theology. Because when we do that we are letting our theology connect with the reality of our experience.

It takes a lot of courage to sing/pray "You found me... just a little late." It's an expression of grateful devotion coupled with an accusation born from pain. It would be a lot easier to just express one or the other, either tenderness or complaint. To express both at the same time leaves us wide open and vulnerable.

Jesus described God as a loving father. If we ask for good things, our good heavenly Father will surely give them to us. "Knock and the door will be opened" Jesus tells us (Lk 11:9). But the story Jesus tells us right before that verse is of a person in need, banging on a locked door in the middle of the night (Lk 11:5-8). Jesus tells a similar story of how prayer is like knocking on the door of a unjust judge who doesn't care (Lk 18:108). Sometimes prayer feels like falling into the arms of our daddy, and other times it feels more like we're pounding our fist on a locked door of a judge who doesn't care.

In the end I think we find the answer to the question of theodicy -- the question of how God can be love when there is so much pain and wrong in the world -- not in finding an explanation, but in learning to walk in the tension of our experience of good and bad, intimacy and abandonment, love and darkness. I don't even want to say that this vacillating experience is how it needs to be, that is healthy and good, but simply that it is how we experience life and God. It's not just you. If we have the courage to be honest, we find that it's what we all experience.

Most of the time I feel like an atheist, and then there are the days when I'm born again, like the heavens have opened up. I long for those days. My heart is wide open to you, Jesus. Lying on the floor, surrounded, you found me.

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At 3:37 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I loved this Derek. When I first heard that song a few years ago, it struck me similarly as you've described. Most of my Christian life I've heard messages again and again of how grateful we always ought to be, and how "God is good, all the time". And as much as I've had moments weeping because of an overwhelming sense of LOVE and acceptance, I've had quite the opposite. Yes, the judge who doesn't care.

The other day I saw a billboard that warned "After you die, you will meet God." . I thought to myself, "Only then?! Why the fuck do we only get to meet God then?! What's the point of even doing this life then?" I constantly wonder why God is so invisible, so hidden, so elusive. Yeah, I get it, "all creation testifies..." and so on. But then what? Most of us humans can conclude that there is a Creator of this magnificent universe. But if God so artistically and wonderfully made us, why not show up BEFORE we die and assure of us this?

At 6:45 AM, Blogger anita brown said...

meeting God now!!! yes, we have to be willing to tell others who have yet to discover a lover of their souls that its possible but that staying there is a longing that must be surrendered. that the glimpses of wholeness and oneness (like taking a drug) are worthy of our faith growing in that direction. that by daily practices of letting go of who we think we are, we open up to how s(he) sees us-- so majestic in god's sight. then we see others this way as well. new eyes to see! new ears to hear!!! new truth to speak!!

this wa a terrific blog post Derek..keep sharing yoru honesty and authenticity.
a. Grace

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Scifigal777 said...

Yeah, but what do you do when God is ALWAYS far away? At some point you wonder if God even exists. What kind of parent just ignores their kid? Just how many times do I have to cry anyway? Sometimes I want to be DONE but I can't seem to let go. Stockholm syndrome maybe?

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Scifi Gal,

Well, one thing I want to do for starters is to make a safe space for you to have those doubts, and not have to have them alone or feel you need to fake being okay. You are not alone in feeling that way, and really church -- that is, the community of believers made up of all of us -- should make room for people to be honest about these kinds of struggles.

One thing I do hope for you is that you can come to know... however you get to that knowledge... that you are loved. Knowing that is something I think we all need deeply, and part of what we are longing for when our hearts cry out for a heavenly parent. If you can't feel that from God, then I hope you can feel that from people, and that it would sink down into your bones, into the bedrock of your soul.

At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

"I constantly wonder why God is so invisible, so hidden, so elusive"

Erik, Yeah there is something really broken about that, something wrong, something incomplete, something in the way.

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

"we have to be willing to tell others who have yet to discover a lover of their souls that its possible but that staying there is a longing that must be surrendered."

Anita, Yeah in my experience what I longed for was a constant sense of God's presence, but what I got (after lots and lots of searching and struggling and growing) was the ability to rest in love, even when I do not feel it at all.

My wife sometimes teases me that I am sure God loves me, even when I am not sure God exists :)

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Scifigal777 said...

Thanks, Derek, appreciate your response.


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