Karmen and I have found ourselves in an interesting position. This week we were asked by a friend to participate in a Bible study that is taking place at various homes. Pretty common thing actually, Bible studies at homes that is. Not the us being invited part. In fact, I’m not really certain why we were invited, and that is mainly due to the make up of the group. There are six couples including us. We are one of the two youngest couples and all of the couples have kids that are older than ours even extending up into college age kids. But the interesting part is this. 4 of the couples currently go to our old church. 1 of the couples used to go to that church like us and left about the same time we did. So it is an interesting mix, and I am just a bit cautious as to why I have been invited to attend. But Karmen and I believe in stretching ourselves so we agreed to give it a try. And after the first week I am glad we did because I think I am going to learn something valuable, and based on the casual discussion and intentional discussion that took place this last week I think I may have something to offer to the group.
So what I want to share is not only what I learned or realized this week but how I came to realize it. As part of the study, we have daily homework. And I have to tell you that when I was sitting there with the group and particular words and particular things like “daily homework” were coming up, there was a little part of me that thought this was going to be the same old same old disingenuous hollow religious speak that I have heard so many times and been shamed with so many times. But I am in a different place than I once was. A place where I no longer feel obligated to have a relationship with God that is designed by others. My prayer for 8 years has been for God to help me relate to him as he desires rather than as other men tell me I should. So much of what goes on in church is people and leaders beating each other up with a God-shaped club, and I want no part of that any more. I want grace and peace and understanding. God has been answering that prayer.
So as I sat there wondering if the God-club was going to come out, things actually went in a direction that I did not expect. These other couples are searching just like we have been searching. I heard phrases like “…faith is stagnant,” “…faith is dry,” “I am a Christian but…” It was really amazing to hear this coming from these people. I did not expect it. Many of them are ones who I feel would beat me with the club. But they weren’t. And they seemed to be searching. It was actually awesome.
OK. Now for what I learned. I promise. I haven’t gotten to it yet. I mean I learned all this stuff above, but that really has nothing to do with the title of this post does it? Here I go. I actually learned something while doing the homework last night of all places. Weird. I don’t like Bible study homework. I seems like the same old same old, and here I am learning something from it. It really is me stretching myself and God meeting me there in that place to teach me. There is no other explanation.
The homework involved the phrase “…the glory of God…” In fact the first question was what comes to mind first when I hear that phrase. My answer: “Churchy religious speak.” I don’t like that phrase. It sounds archaic. It reminds me of the club. The next question was what does “the glory of God” have to do with me. My answer: “I don’t know.”
The “glory of God” is often talked about in Christian circles as the reason we exist. We exist to glorify God. To bring him glory. To worship him. And that is a problematic idea for me for 2 reasons. The first is this: If God needed to make me in order to have somebody worship him and bring him glory, then he seems like a weak spoiled brat selfish God to me. Come on. He is God. Does he really need a bunch of little humans paying homage to him? And I would say that this is really pretty much the idea I have always had in my head when this idea of “the glory of God” and why I exist comes up. But I think I have been wrong in the way I think about it, and this is the thing that I have learned that I wanted to share and which I will explain in bit. But let me get to reason number 2.
The idea that I exist for God’s glory cannot go along with a second churchy religious speak phrase that it also very prevalent in Christianity. That is the idea of my “worminess.” The club has come out time and time again to tell me how worthless I am. How sinful I am. How much of a worm I am. It is even in old hymns and new choruses. I am a worm. Well, you tell me how me as a horrible icky worm brings any glory to God. That is ridiculous to me. I cannot both be a worm and be a glorifier of God. If God was going to make something that brings him glory, it would not be a worm. And it would not be 6 billion + worms. I fully recognize that sin is destructive and alters what God made. But it doesn’t take something awesome and totally wreck it so that there is no worth at all. It does not make me a worm. It just makes me broken. And then the light popped on.
Karmen has been trying to get this idea across to me on several occasions. Even right before the light popped on in my head, she had just basically told me the same thing in her own words. And she has told me it before. And I understood what she was saying intellectually all those times. But for some reason it clicked for me last night.
God does not stand up there on his stage, sit up there on his perch, look over his creation from his watchtower and hold up his crossbow and demand, “Glorify me. Bring me glory. Worship me.” I have had the wrong image of that. God instead holds me up and shows me off and says, “Look what I made. Look how awesome he is. Look how awesome Doug is. I want you to see him because he is awesome, and I made him.” That is how I bring glory to God. Because he wants to show me off. I am a beautiful creature. Yeah I have a big old sin shaped scar across my chest, but God doesn’t care. I am still beautiful. God is not holding up a worm. He is holding up a prize.
And I have heard this very thing that I have said just now, all my life. But it always seemed to be hollow. It always seemed like it was said by people who didn’t truly believe it. It always seemed like it was said in a way that this is what we were supposed to believe but we really all know what is true. Everyone who said it always seemed to me to be on such a wire, barely holding onto it, and maybe not holding onto it. It was not said with boldness or sincerity. But probably mostly it was just me not hearing it and believing it and owning it like I did yesterday. I don’t know why it all of a sudden clicked for me. Yes I do. It is God answering my prayer.