I grew up learning that God loves me and wants to take care of me. I heard over and over again that I am God’s Child. God’s “Beloved Son.” That God would do anything to take care of me, and that God was the most benevolent and loving parent a child could have.
When I was 16 my Mother got cancer. But after surgery and a bit of treatment it disappeared. We came to hold the idea that moms illness and recovery was “God Showing Off.” The idea troubled me, but I ignored it.
When I was 20 my Mother got cancer. Again. Turns out the old hadn’t gone away, it had just retreated, re-grouped, re-strategized, and re-attacked. No big deal though. Probably just God showing off again. Apparently that’s what God does.
Time passed, and her condition got worse. Maybe if I prayed hard enough or the right way; maybe if I could ignore my fear and doubt and anger then God would show up. Maybe if I repented of any and all sins, no matter how insignificant or unintentional, that would get God to show up. Because, like all good parents, they show up to protect, but only when you do the right things the right way with the right attitude and in the right order.
When I was 21 my Mom passed away. It caused a lot of heartache and questioning. But it was easier to deny it.
When I was 27 we miscarried our first son Odin. It was painful and brutal. I couldn’t shake that feeling:
If I am God’s beloved son, and Odin was God’s beloved son, and my mother God’s beloved daughter, and God is all powerful and able to do all things, why didn’t anything change? Why didn’t God do anything?
Because I would have done anything at all to save my boy.
And I’m an imperfect Father.
What does Father even mean?
What does beloved son even mean?
It was easier to let go of the idea. To lean in to doubt. I was, as many have described it, clinging onto old beliefs and habits and ideas like a weak branch in a raging river. And so I let go.
And what happened isn’t what you’d expect. I didn’t fall into worldly sin, or open myself to the machinations of satan. I didn’t find a cold dark and lonely place full of sinners and evil. I didn’t find myself swept away into the fires of hell.
I found God.
In my doubt I found God.
In my fear I found God.
In my anger I found God.
Not a sky-god that was up in the clouds pulling the strings for their own purposes and amusement. Not a warrior God who commits genocide; men, women, children, and animals included (Genesis 6-8, Genesis 18-19, Exodus 11-12, Numbers 21:2-3, Deuteronomy 20:17, Joshua 6:17, 21, 1 Samuel 15). Not a vile god who forces a rape victim to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). And not a cruel sadistic god who took my mother from me.
I found a God who bled along side me. Who suffered with me. Who knew pain and loss and death. A God who was no stranger. A God who offered no reasons or explanations, but held space for everything I had. Who beckoned me to follow into a better version of myself.
I found a God who looked like Jesus. Because at the end of the day Jesus looks like God, yes, But God looks like Jesus. And so do we.
So I shifted from belief in a sky-god to a wounded healer. I still wrestle with the implications and the ideas of all of it. But that’s ok. The book of Psalms and Lamentations stand as proof that our wounded-healer God can stand up to our rage and our anger and our questions. Our wounded-healer God can allow us to say: “Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.” (Lamentations 3:10-12), but also arrives every time we lift our eyes up to the hills.