Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

July 11, 2014

The message: God digs us

I have sat through thousands of sermons, Bible studies, theology classes, religious discussions and faith-based conferences. I’ve read dozens of books about faith journeys and personal discoveries. I’ve probably been involved in at least a hundred thousand personal conversations about God. I’ve researched and written hundreds of columns steeping with a spiritual theme or message.

But I was struck with the beautiful brilliant simplicity of a friend’s recent grand theological statement about a third person whose faith is receding: “Tell her to keep the faith! God digs her, and there’s nothing she can do about that.”

That’s about it, isn’t it? That’s the bottom line. It really is that simple.

Sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament could be summarized, albeit very rudimentarily, into those 17 words. Although one can spend a lifetime engaging in deep analysis, philosophical discussion and doctrinal debate, that brief testimony encapsulates God’s love and grace quite effectively. If only the individual could accept and believe it. And that’s where it gets complicated. God “digs” us but do we “dig” him back? Do we even believe he exists?

 Let me take the statement piece by piece. “Tell her to keep the faith.” Even though you can’t lecture or cajole someone into believing, we are told to “share the Good News” with those who don’t believe and we are also told to encourage other people who have believed but whose faith is wavering or even failing. God knows our faith is sometimes weak, so he told us to encourage one another and, most importantly, to love one another. I don’t believe in pressuring or haranguing people who’ve made a choice not to believe, especially people I love. Better to let one’s actions speak louder than words or, as the often-misquoted-possibly wrongly-attributed quote of St. Francis of Assisi reads: “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

However, when a person hasn’t made a choice and is engaging in an external or internal debate, still uncertain of what he or she believes, I would encourage them not to give up on God and understand that it is, always and ultimately, a matter of “faith.” If, for whatever reason, one has become skeptical after believing in the past, it is not an intellectual debate or stacks of evidence-based books that will renew the person’s belief. It is accepting that this is an issue of faith. We might be wrong. But I’m taking my chances and believing rather than taking my chances and not believing. My heart and soul are ultimately more powerful than my head. Faith rules.

The second part: “God digs her.” God does dig us. We read that again and again in the Bible. If one is open to it, one can even hear and see it in one’s life. Sometimes in the darkest days. I think a person can experience God whether or not the person wants to call it God. Sometimes you can sense a Higher Power that breathes a whisper of that power into your life when you feel empty, deflated, gasping and grasping. Opening your heart and mind to that is opening your world to new possibilities.

God is love so, yes, God digs us. At my request, my friend elaborated on this part of his simple theology: “God digs or loves us unconditionally and is there for us always. It is when you reach the bottom or depression in your life that there is the most turmoil and doubt. Satan is cunning and can hide easily. He knows that these are the times to attack us and have the most impact for his plan. If he cannot get us on his side, he will settle for us becoming an ineffective witness for Christ and not promoting the Kingdom of God.  When I have reached these bottoms over (the course of) my life, I finally started to realize that the only peace that I could really get came from God.”

 The final piece: “There’s nothing she can do about that.” You can’t earn it and you can lose it — God’s love is just a gift. But still, it is sometimes difficult to receive, right? Especially, when we’ve been injured, wounded, never had a good reason to believe, or have suffered painful and irrevocable loss. Those things can make us angry at God. Anger can build like a burning spark into a roaring fire. It happens with people we love sometimes — anger throws us across that thin border between love and hate. It can happen with God.

“Sure,” said another friend of mine. “You can hate God. You can hate his son. But that doesn’t mean they will ever hate you. They will never hate you, no matter what.”

“We gotta remember that hatred is a horrible, crippling, and debilitating trap for the hater,” added my friend, the simple theologian. “If the hater wants a happier and more blessed life, they need to forgive the object of their hate and it will free them up to enjoy everything else in life more. If (the person) could only make one change in her life, I would pick forgiveness to be her change. It will have a positive ripple effect that will fix many other things.”

So God digs us and there’s nothing we can do about that. Except forgive, free ourselves of hate and accept God’s love. It is an exceedingly, almost ridiculously, simple theology but, as Laura Ingalls Wilder said, “It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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