I know now that I hated God. It’s not that I wanted to hate him or would have ever let it show. Perhaps, hate is too strong of a word. Still, I was certainly frustrated in my relationship with God. I found myself in a spiritual conundrum. I had to love God in order to be a good Christian boy, one whom the older ladies in the church would be proud of and smile at for no apparent reason, but the more I tried to love what I viewed as a judgmental and wrathful God, the more hopeless I became. I couldn’t force myself to love God as he desired, especially when he so loosely held my eternal destiny in his hands.
Now, it would be inaccurate to say that my childhood was a complete spiritual train wreck. Each Sunday I dutifully took my place in the church pew seated next to Grandma, evermore craving the afore-mentioned candies from her purse. I attended weekly Wednesday night classes as required by our pastor and church board, where we learned all about loving our neighbor as ourself, then afterward played “Kill the Guy with the Ball” until someone began to bleed or cry. I lived the typical life of an adolescent male, albeit one who had deep theological misgivings.
I guess I had sort of a fairy tale, Santa Claus-like brand of theology. I had no problem believing all the stories of the Bible, even the hard ones in the Old Testament like Jonah spending three days in the belly of a fish and Samson fastening torches to the tails of foxes. I accepted such stories in child-like faith and wonder. It was the other stuff I had difficulty with. I viewed God as just, but struggled with his compassion. I had no problem thinking of God as fair, but apparently skipped over the parts of the Bible that talked about his mercy. This is what I mean by my Santa Claus-like theology. I was certain that God rewarded good deeds and punished bad behavior, and that the good boys and girls would get the gifts of his grace, while the bad kids would receive the proverbial lump of coal, which, in this case, only stoked the Devil’s fiery flames.
(To be continued…)