Jan Losh: We are not the deciders
Ever since President George W. Bush called himself “the decider” I’ve held it as an amusing word. It applies to an ever-growing spiritual phenomenon: imagining ourselves the deciders of who and what God is.
There is no end to what some of us have decided we cannot believe: “I can’t believe in a God who would/or is (fill in the blank with your personal discomfort).
Who hasn’t wished to re-create a neighbor or co-worker into someone with whom we would be more comfortable?
As a child, I learned my best friend hated her mother. I disdained my father. I came to believe that everyone passionately hated one parent, fervently loving the other. We may have tried wishing our parents into improved character by clicking our heels together repeating, “I don’t want a mean dad,” or “I want my mommy to love me,” but to no avail.
Psychologists confirm that the only individual any of us can change is oneself.
And yet many seem to believe that God is subject to re-invention by His own creation. Oprah Winfrey shares how her spiritual exploration began. In her late 20s at a church service, the preacher’s biblical proclamation that God is a jealous God “didn’t sit well with (her) spirit” and she determined to “search for something more than doctrine.” I wholeheartedly support the desire to find more than what was to her an impersonal policy, an impoverished faith.
With that, I take great license with an illustration from long ago (the source beyond recollection). The scenario: a husband texts his wife from a dealership where he has found the ’66 Corvette of his dreams; the message includes the staggering price. The wife has known for decades what a car like that would mean to him. Her text reply: “No price too high.” Now, does she mean, “Have you checked the bank account lately? No, the price is too high!” Or does she mean, “Sweetheart, you’ve finally found the car of your dreams! Buy it, because no price is too high for your happiness!”
The husband knows their finances well enough to know which version would be correct, but he decides to use the ambiguity to “search for something more…” He asks his best buddy (a car collector), a client (auto body shop owner), and his brother (who envisions borrowing the car on special occasions), to ensure he hears the answer he wants.
Of course, he could simply ask his wife what she meant. But that might not yield the preferred answer, so better to get the enlightened opinions of others. No matter how exhaustive his search for the truth might be, there would be only one source to definitively clarify what she meant.
If we want to know what God means when he says he is a jealous God, there’s only one source with the answer: the source that provided the statement in the first place. It requires commitment to the truth, not commitment to anyone’s comfort. Yet it will pleasantly surprise the seeker and proves to be far more fulfilling than the descent into cafeteria-style religious shopping that leaves one perhaps temporarily satisfied, but spiritually malnourished.
God is who and what He is. And unlike any feeble illustration, He offers answers beyond our imaginations.
Among the things I know for sure about God: he would prefer to be asked, “What did you mean by that?” rather than be thwarted by an alternative search that culminates in a meaningless answer. He is not a Mr. Potato Head awaiting a decider to define him.
Of course, some will put a Corvette in the driveway – no matter the cost.
Jan Losh is a human resources consultant based in Dillon. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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