A Stack of Bibles

It started with a small complaint.

A small complaint in a big parking lot with a heavy push-broom and puddles of gravel and dust.

It didn’t seem fair that He was invisible. They said that He was the most important of all, but He had the nerve to stay hidden behind mystery and space. How am I supposed to have a relationship with somebody who insists on remaining invisible?

I wasn’t pleased with this decision at all, and I told Him so as I pushed that heavy broom over empty parking spaces.

As complaints often do, they grew. With each pass of the broom across gravel and pavement, I muttered my displeasure under my breath.

People say that Christianity is supposed to the best relationship, but it didn’t feel like that at all and I was doing everything right. It wasn’t fair. I was praying every day, and the words I said were bouncing off the ceiling and falling to the floor unheard and worthless. Why would He command me to pray but then not show me the courtesy of listening?

I was doing all the work here and He wasn’t keeping His end of the deal. How was I supposed to be best friends with an invisible person who refused to speak?

Sure, He’d given us a Book. But that was all. An old Book full of old confusing words. And He told us to spend time with Him, but that just meant reading the old Book full of old words. And I was tired of it.

Who would want to be best friends with a Book?

_____________________________

They say that the Bible is a love letter.

If that’s true, it seems to me like a terrible love letter. After all, who writes a love letter and then includes a thousand pages of dietary laws and genealogical records and pronouncements of sudden devastation?

_____________________________

As I swept the parking lot that day, my swirling complaints grew heavy. I was tired.

Tired of pretending like the Bible wasn’t boring and prayer didn’t feel pointless.

Tired of trying so hard to love a God that felt so far away. Tired of trying to be best friends with a Book.

Methodically I pushed dust and gravel across empty parking spots, but inside I was angry. I told Him it wasn’t fair, that He wasn’t fair, and that I was done pretending.

What are you going to do about all that, huh? 

Then it was like a whisper behind me, cutting through the dust and gravel:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” 

I wasn’t impressed. Because of the ceiling and the book and the gravel and the dust.

 So, what difference does that make? 

Then the whisper again, a second time:

“With cords of lovingkindness I have drawn thee.”  

But those were just words. Just words penned by the Creator of the Universe thousands of years ago and then whispered into my heart in the very moment I demanded an answer.

_____________________________

They say that the Bible has all the answers.

I’ve read it through a few times now, and I still have questions.

_____________________________

I let the questions sweep my faith to the edges of my heart. There I stood fuming that He refused to meet me on my terms, but I couldn’t hide from love.

He’s invisible, but He’s not far away. And when the tired words from the Book were whispered into my heart as if for the first time, He was there.

Grasping the Book in one hand and a push-broom in the other I find Him in the moments I expect Him least but need Him most.

[ image: GeoWombats ]

50 comments

  1. Eliza

    Love this!

    Reply
  2. Beautiful!

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  3. So good and so raw. I know I’ve certainly had those same thoughts before, but am not always willing to admit it in those moments. Those questions that stir deep inside, the ones that you have paper answers to but that you can’t actually comprehend. Thanks for writing something so real and so raw. Good stuff.

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    • I think it’s really important to give voice to some of those questions and doubts, knowing that God can take it. That’s what we see when the Psalmist says “God, why have you forsaken me?” Theologically, it’s not a factual question. But it’s good to bring to God those doubts and fears even when we know we should have the right answers, even we have have the answers. Better to be honest with God than to pretend like it’s all good, right?

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      • …and honest with ourselves. : )

        Lovely post. Thank you for your courage.

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        • Thanks Lisa. Though to be honest, it doesn’t feel like it takes that much courage to talk about this when I know I’m part of a community with so many others on the same raw, honest journey.

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  4. It takes faith and a bit of courage to ask the Creator. Thanks for your candor. Keep asking even if you only hear crickets, for even crickets say something.

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    • Yes! I love that, about the crickets. I’m so glad that somebody as powerful as the Creator is not someone have to be be afraid of. He loves our questions.

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  5. I’ve read that book – the one full of dusty words and old-fashioned phrases – and I’ve heard that whisper on my heart, in my soul…Thank you for sharing your story so openly. It’s kind of funny that the journey oftentimes holds more than the destination. This IS a love story.

    Reply
    • Isn’t it though? That’s what’s so beautiful about it. There’s something more to the Book than just words.

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  6. Best place possible for those hard questions. Thanks for writing about it so eloquently.

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  7. Seth

    Perfect. I can relate to this…A LOT! Thanks for sharing.

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    • I’m so glad you can. We’re in this together.

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  8. Tanya marlow

    Yes. This. I have known this – all of it.

    Thank you for your words.

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  9. Agnostic? Pastor's Wife

    I could completely relate to this up until the moment that He answered you. It’s been over a year of silence, despite a tear stained Bible and desperate prayers. I’ve read the Bible straight through three times in the last two years and I only have more questions, more doubts, and more silence.

    There was a time when He was real to me, when faith was vibrant and the relationship seemed a reality. Now there is cold, empty space. Where is that unfailing love? Or is it only for those He chooses to whisper to, in those times He chooses to reveal Himself? Is He truly a loving God or is that only for His favorites? How loving is it to create something He knows He will torture and destroy? Is God truly love?

    And all these doubts may be what keeps Him silent. But where is the love in His silence?

    This is the air I breathe. Right now, I feel as though I am suffocating.

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    • Agnostic? Pastor’s Wife, your name and your comment touch me. I am a pastor’s daughter, a rebel prodigal who spent 25+ years in the far-off country. I hear the cry in your words and I wanted to tell you that I love you.

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    • I am praying for you! I have been there. I really have. Have you read “We Would See Jesus” by Roy Hession? Such an excellent, short book. One thing that helped me was CS Lewis quote that if we could totally understand God and his ways, he wouldn’t be that “great” a God. Understanding God fully is not a prerequisite to trusting Him…if that is any consolation to you, friend. :) Hugs.

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    • He’s done this with me, too, and I don’t understand it, either. Closest I can come to answering the question “why?” is with, “because.” Because there’s a reason, even if we can’t see it, possibly because we’ll never understand it. Ask Him to show you, but don’t be surprised if He doesn’t answer. Sometimes I think He wants us to know that we can love Him and depend on Him without His presence, His answers…the feelings, the emotions, the spiritual highs. If it’s any consolation, Mother Teresa endured the same thing.

      It’s your decision. For me the temptation was to turn away from a God so seemingly insensitive, so uncaring…and then I realized I couldn’t. Because if I know nothing else in this whole world, I know He is THERE.

      And one day I realized, knowing that was enough.

      Love and hugs to you, no matter where your journey takes you!

      PS. If you haven’t in awhile, you might want to go back and re-read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. ; )

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    • I had a period of time where God was no where near me. I kept wondering what I was doing to push him away. Was there sin I wasn’t aware of, was I not reading my Bible enough? I was so frustrated and hurting. I got to the point where I put my Bible down for about six weeks. I only read it when it was read to me in church or being referenced by other people. I focused on honest journaling about how I was feeling. I directed my journaling toward God. Eventually, I read books by Brennan Manning and others that were focused on God’s grace. God spoke to my heart there. I had been trying to control when God would speak to me. I thought if I just read my Bible more, then He should show up, right? Apparently not. I was looking to my Bible reading to heal me rather than Jesus, Himself. I think God needed to show me how I was depending on myself and my Bible reading rather than on Him. I’m not condoning not reading the Bible, but for me it became clear that I was looking to the Bible to be my Savior. I had made the Bible into an idol.

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  10. As a priest in a sacramental church, the sacraments help to keep me anchored when the book gets dry. Which is does, from time to time. Or rather, I can’t hear what’s in it from time to time. The Bible only points to something deeper, which is found in other places – spiritual directors, worship, water, wine, bread, oil, silence, suffering, laughter.

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    • I think you’re onto something there. There’s a lot I appreciate about my Evangelical upbringing, but I think we miss a lot by downplaying the significance of sacraments. The reading/preaching of the Word is a sacrament, and an important way to experience God. But when we make it the only way, I think we tend miss out on some of what God has given us (especially through communion with the Spirit).

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  11. Had some similar thoughts recently (check out my latest, Getting Gesthsemane) and let me know what you think), but I think it has a lot to do with the way we are taught the Bible. It’s not an reference book, it’s more like a Choose Your Own Adventure. And it’s okay to bring your questions, your fears, your tears, your disappointments–the answers lie in unexpected places. And chances are its not Jeremiah 29:11 all the time. :)

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    • Sometimes our understanding of the Bible sets up a false expectation for how we interact with it. It doesn’t claim to have all the answers. In the Bible, we see Jesus revealed. Trying to approach it without the Spirit of Jesus enlightening us is a very frustrating and disillusioning project.

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      • Amber

        Agreed. But Jesus and the Word of God are one and the same, no? In the beginning the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Thinking that you can read the Bible without encountering the Spirit of God is a matter of perception, not necessarily reality. The Word of God is living and active, it doesn’t cease to be just because we cease to perceive it. Interesting that Jesus is almost always revealed to us even outside of the context of reading the Bible, with scripture, or in experiences and emotions that we can find replicated there.

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        • Hi Amber,

          I really appreciate your heart in this and so much of it echoes my own. I believe that when we read Scripture, we encounter the Spirit of God, living and active.

          However, I’d like to suggest that we run into a danger when we conflate Jesus with the Word with Scripture. Jesus is the Word of God, absolutely, and in Isaiah when God says His Word will not return void, that it will go out and accomplish what it needs to and all that has been set to happen, that’s Jesus. But what we don’t have in Scripture is a conflation of Scripture with Jesus. No time in Scripture is Scripture called the Word the way Jesus is the Word and we would do well to recall His own push to the Pharisees that though they search the Scriptures that speak of Him, they do not recognise Him. All that’s to say, if you mean the Word of God as the redemptive and all-mighty Christ our Lord, yes. But if you mean the Word of God is Scripture? No. Jesus is not your Bible and your Bible is not Jesus. The Bible preaches to us about Him, leads us to Him, prompts our hearts in all sorts of way, but Jesus is our Lord and Saviour, the Bible one of many tools He uses to show us the heart of the Father. A unique, special, particular tool? Yes. Inspired? Yes. But our God? No.

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          • Amber

            I trust your background on this theologically much more than my own. I don’t believe my Bible has the power to redeem or save me on its own. Very much agreed Bible is not our God. I appreciate the difference between Jesus, The Word and Scripture.

            However, Jesus speaking to the Pharisees is the same issue Micah addresses here. It is not that He isn’t in the Scriptures, it’s that his presence isn’t being perceived. Doesn’t matter if you come from a position of persecution or confusion–Jesus is always being revealed in the Scripture, we’re just not always in a position to see it.

            Totally out of my league to debate with you, but it’s fun to try. Educate me, Yancey.

        • I’ll leave the theological differentiations to Preston, as he understands these matters much better than I do. However, I would say that part of the frustration that I relayed in this story was the result of thinking that Jesus = Bible. So I thought that “spending time with Jesus” was essentially only accomplished through reading the Bible. That was at the root of my question – “Who would want to be best friends with a book?” By conflating Jesus and the Word of God, I forgot that Jesus exists outside the Bible. I thought that the only way to experience Him was in the Bible. And that got to be very difficult.

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          • Amber

            Totally get it, and agree, experiences with Jesus is a superset, of which being revealed through the Bible can be a part of, but is not necessarily its totality. I just found it ironic that when you did feel the presence of Jesus, outside of the Bible, he quoted Scripture to you.

        • “I just found it ironic that when you did feel the presence of Jesus, outside of the Bible, he quoted Scripture to you.”

          Yes, I love this part of the story too! He spoke to me through the Scriptures, but not the when I was reading (or even trying to remember) the words of the Book. I think there’s something important there. About how Jesus/God are revealed to us through the Book, but are not bound by the Book.

          And also something about “I will bring all things to your remembrance.”

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  12. Ryan

    I appreciate your post, once again. And I believe it was the late Brennan Manning that said “The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves.” Pretending never fools God, thankfully. And thank Him the Bible doesn’t provide all of our answers! Otherwise we would worship it, as many today do. I love how George MacDonald puts it! “Till we know Him, let us hold the Bible dear as the moon of our darkness, by which we travel towards the east; not dear as the sun whence her light cometh, and towards which we haste, that, walking in the sun himself, we may no more need the mirror that reflected his absent brightness.”

    However, I believe we fail to see the Bible as a love letter as we continually systematize it! The less we systematize, the more story and narrative we are able to see. We see a beginning and end; we see a lavish Lover that refuses to bedazzle us with riches; we see our importance; and the list goes on. If that is not a love letter I don’t know what is.

    Thank you once again, Micah, for providing a place to discuss such important topics. Many prefer to ignore them.

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  13. Micah, you are amazing. Never stop.

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  14. Christine Farina

    I echo many of Agnostic, Pastor’s wife’s words. There was a time for me when my relationship with God seemed real and vibrant and fulfilling. But now, I’m beginning to wonder if it was all a cruel joke. I wish i had the faith that many of you have. But i don’t. I haven’t picked up the Bible in a long time, simply because I’ve lost a desire to pursue a God i can’t hear, see, or touch. I’m angry that i don’t have that desire, because it makes me feel like i was never a true believer. I’ve grown up in the Christian community, and it burns me up inside that I’m not like those who unquestionably love God and sacrifice everything for him.

    I sound angry and bitter because I’m exhausted. My life feels like one giant farce

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    • t-t

      i think you should read this book called “Transformed into His image:hidden steps on the journey to Christlikeness” by david kyle foster. he talks about this same he called “the dark night of the soul” where God wasnt speaking to him…i think God was testing him to purify im more, it was a “wilderness” period. dont give up! when u come out on the other side im sure u will have learned so much and have your soul deepened and also your relationship w/ God…

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    • Stephen

      I know this post is really old… but I wanted to share in case other people come here feeling this way. Start small! You don’t want to read the Bible. Don’t! Don’t want to “pray” to Him. Don’t! Here’s what I suggest: in your heart, or out loud…. tell Him how you really feel. Completely honest. No “Christianize” …. start there.

      P.s. I told God I was pissed at Him yesterday and I feel like my “Faith” has become a complete joke. I also told Him that trying to follow Him is making me miserable and if this is all it is then I want to freakin quit. So I’m sharing this from my own very recent experience.

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  15. This is beautiful and similar to my experience too. My interest in reading the Bible goes up and down. Most often I find it confusing and hard to understand. But I’ve found in desperate situations that God repeatedly whispers to my heart with His words. He gently reminds me of those specific things I need to hear at that moment from what I’ve read in the Bible. It’s truly amazing. Those are the situations, those whispers, that have kept my faith intact.

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  16. Oh, this spoke to my heart so much! This is almost exactly where I am at in my faith right now. It can be so hard to hear of other experiences like mine (though I think many Christians must go through this). I’m at this place where I want to pray and read the Bible more, but I just can’t because I think the same thing as you’ve mentioned here… “If God is invisible, why should/how can I trust Him?” Thank you so much for sharing this!

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  17. allie

    can i ask what the small complaint was?

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    • the one about God being invisible. that’s where it started, at least.

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  18. Jonathan

    For all those who read and read and cry and wonder why God isn’t answering, maybe He’s waiting for you to realize you can rest, like Mary did, at the feet of Jesus, and let Him do all the work. Let go and let God. And when you do, you will see the answers appearing all around you every day.

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    • L.

      I’m homeless I cant rest I have to figure out how to survive one more day,since God cant seem to get me a good paying job so I can afford to take care of myself.

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  19. I Got so burn out I stopped reading. Now I find myself backsludden and far from God. I want it back. Were do I start? Reading the buble thats so hard to pick up and understand when I feel as ive done him wrong therefore he has left.i pray, nithing..I listen to prause n woeship, nothing…I open my bible and I just stare. What now??

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    • L.

      Maybe try a different version of the bible.

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  20. Stephen

    I’ve hit this place a few times since I really met Jesus 3 years ago. I just hit it again (hence a google search landing me hear). I’ve had some amazing times with God reading the Bible and Him speaking through scripture straight to my heart. But I want something more. I want to live the abundant life Jesus promised! Somehow I got it mixed up…and I started to try to “live out the Bible” instead of live out my own story being written by the Holy Spirit. Times of hanging out with Jesus and experiencing life with Him became times of reading the Bible and other books.

    So I’ve put the books down and it feels amazing. I didn’t even crack open the Bible this morning which is normally my favorite morning activity. Instead I just lived today with my best friend (God) and enjoyed being myself with Him. The Holy Spirit is just as present and strong with us as He was with all those guys we read about. The Bible is a great reference and guide filled with great examples of Christians trying to live out their faith back in the day (ie. Pauls letters). But… we have our own amazing Kingdom stories to live out!

    I will never bash how awesome scripture is… but sometimes you have to quit reading and just live.

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  21. revie

    Hi Micah,
    Thanks for your honesty…your site came up just when I was trying to get jesus to answer me through google….and it worked (:

    blessings

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  22. Debbie

    Thank you for being open and honest. It seems so often we just hear the triumphs (which is good) and the reality of living the Christian life is that we often feel a disconnect. A wise person told me once that if we were satisfied we wouldn’t have a need to keep working for better. I needed this reminder. God bless.

    Reply
  23. Pamela t

    I’m having a moment like this. I’ve stop reading and praying (out loud)What’s funny is, I can’t escape him.. He’s all around me, but yet so far.

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  24. Ted McClure

    I feel the older I get, the harder for it is for me to believe. It is becoming almost unbearable. More questions and doubts everyday – Why. Tonite I find myself asking why did Christ have to leave the arty at all after his resurrection? Why did he not stay hear for us, rather than leave. If he conquered death then, once and for all, why are we still subject to it. All the answers I am given by Christians simply leave to more questions. Feel like I am leaving my faith….I do not want to, but now 50 years old, it all seems so far fetched. Anyone got any ideas. I am sorry God for doubting

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  25. Matt

    It sounds lukewarm on many levels

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  26. L.

    I feel the same way, Finding there are others that feel the same way as well.
    You serve God for (over 22 years) and what does it get you?Homeless, family are all deceased, cant get a job, friends are all gone… you read the bible over and over and read about the promises and its like… OK ,where are these so-called promises. My life sucks… what good does it do to be a Christian?

    Reply

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