Die tweede hoofstuk van Yancey se boek is geneig om mens van alle pretensies oor jou geloof te stroop en jy voel welkom in die gemeenskap van twyfelaars wat glo. Met besondere diplomasie beskryf Yancey hoe sommige mense se een-tot-een vriendskapsverhouding verhouding met God ander mense verbaas en hoe ander hulle lewe lank op soek was na daardie intimiteit wat hulle nooit gekry het nie.
“Why, then, do we find it so difficult to relate personally to this God? At various times people tended to pray to local saints, who seemed more accessible and less scary. Protestant Reformers and Catholic mystics, though, challenged us to relate to God directly, without intermediaries. And modern evangelicalism summons us to know God, to talk to God in conversational language, to love God as one might love a friend. Listen to the “praise songs” in modern churches, which sound exactly like love songs played on pop radio, with God or Jesus substituted as the lover.
The same evangelical tradition that spurs us on to greater intimacy also invites abuse. “I asked the Lord what to speak on and he said, don’t speak on pride, speak on stewardship.” “The Lord told me he wanted a new medical center in this city.” “God is whispering to me right now that someone in this audience is struggling with a broken marriage.” I know for a fact that some statements exactly like these are deceitful, from speakers who say them sloppily or manipulatively. The wording implies a kind of voice-to-voice conversation that did not take place, and the fudged report has the effect of creating a spiritual caste that downgrades others’ experiences.
Martin Marty, a Lutheran minister and popular writer, confesses he “can count on one hand the number of times in my life that ‘immediacy’ [with God] hit me enough to merit my talking about it to the person closest to me, and can count no times it was worth advertising to the public. He speaks instead of a season of abandonment by God, of dereliction that descended on him during his wife’s lengthy terminal illness.
Frederick Buechner is a writer I hold in the highest esteem both for craft and his Christian commitment. He left a promising career as a novelist to attend seminary and seek ordination as a Presbyterian ministery, only to return to writing as his primary “pulpit.” In his memoir, Buechner records a scene of tense anticipation in which he lay in the warm sunlight pleading for a miracle, for some definite sign from the Lord.
“In just such a place on just such a day I lay down in the grass with just such wild expectations. Part of what it means to believe in God, at least part of what it means for me, is to believe in the possibility of miracle, and because of a variety of circumstances I had a very strong feeling at that moment that the time was ripe for miracle, my life was ripe for miracle, and the very strength of the feeling itself seemed a kind of vanguard of miracle. Something was going to happen—something extraordinary that I could perhaps even see and hear—and I was so nearly sure of it that in retrospect I am surprised that by the power of auto suggestion I was unable to make it happen. But the sunshine was too bright, the air too clear, some skepticism in myself too sharp to make it possible to imagine ghosts among the apple trees or voices among the yellow jackets, and nothing like what I expected happened at all.”
What he got was the soughing wind and the clack-clack of two apple branches scraping against each other. Had God spoken or not? Why wouldn’t God use a vocabulary less susceptible to doubt and misinterpretation? For Buechner, at least, God did not.
While in his fifties Buechner spent a semester teaching at Wheaton College where he encountered the familiarity of evangelical language for the first time. “I was astonished to hear students shift casually from small talk about the weather and movies to a discussion of what God was doing in their lives. If anybody said anything like that in my part of the world, the ceiling would fall in, the house would catch fire, and people’s eyes would roll up in their heads.” Although he came to admire the students’ fervency, it seemed to him at first that their God resembled a cosmic Good Buddy.
Do we, like billboards for Pepsi, fan a thirst we cannot quench? Just last week my church sang: “I want to know you more /I want to touch you / I want to see your face.” Nowhere in the Bible do I find a promise that we will touch God, or see his face, not in this life at least.
Modern American religion speaks in “friendly” terms with God even though, as C. S. Lewis points out in The Four Loves, friendship is the form of love that least accurately describes the truth I of a creature’s encounter with the Creator. How, then, can we have a personal relationship” with a God who is invisible, when we’re never quite sure he’s there.
Ek kan onthou dat ek male sonder tal baie “afgeskeep” gevoel het in die teenwoordigheid van manne en vroue wat oënskynlik die Here se stem na willekeur kan hoor. Ek moet eerlik wees en ook soos Buechner sê dat my joernaal inderdaad aantekeninge bevat wat ek op daardie stadium beskou het as gedagtes wat deur die God Heilige Gees in my geplaas is, maar daardie “enkele sinne” was nou nie juis iets wat die wêreld aan die brand sou steek nie. Veel eerder was dit woorde wat my persoonlik aangespreek het as wat dit woorde van uitsonderlike wysheid vir die wêreld was.
Hoe laat hierdie gedeelte jou voel oor jou interaksie met God?