Gary Black Jr. tells of the first time he ever saw his father cry. When Gary was a teenager he and his little brother were set to attend the Texas State Fair with their dad, who had taken a rare hard to obtain mid week day off to make it a special time with his boys. Gary explains how his dad, a strong, hard working, and caring father, was not able to do things like this very often. So he was putting his heart into it.
Gary had begun to enter the difficult years which for some boys is expressed in mindless forms of selfish foolishness. Gary’s dad was loving but no pushover. So Gary could not think of a more wasted day than to be with his dad and kid brother at the fair. He wanted to be with his buds and do other things. So he plotted to feign sickness, then once his dad and brother were gone, go and do as he pleased. To make his illness seem real he did the age old thermometer under the hot water trick. His dad came up to check on him, and not being nearly as savvy as Gary’s mom who happened to already be out for the morning, Gary put on his best sickness act. His dad heard Gary’s lies, fell for his performance, and sadly started to head back down stairs to clean up the kitchen from where he spent an unusually early morning cooking breakfast for his boys, which of course Gary didn’t eat; along with having packed the huge ice chest full of snacks, sandwiches, and drinks he had put together to make the day even more special.
Just as he got to the top of the stairs Gary’s dad looked down at the thermometer. It registered 112 degrees. The lie was exposed. He let Gary know he now knew the truth and descended the stairs. Gary came down a few moments behind him trying to formulate more lies to cover his first one, but he was stopped short by a shocking sight. His dad was standing at the kitchen sink with his back to Gary. He was holding the thermometer in his hand, and his shoulders were shaking with sobs. And for the first time in Gary’s foolish self centered teenage life something came crystal clear to him. He had the power to deeply hurt his father. Gary says “Suddenly he was mortal, not an immovable block of granite, but a man whose heart could be broken by someone he loved. By me.” (If you want more of this story get Gary’s book PREPARING FOR HEAVEN)
There are too many heart wrenching stories about kids who learn how to deeply wound their parents and use that as a weapon. In most cases though, such a revelation awakens the growing child to a far deeper awareness that where there is love, that love is vulnerable. After maybe too many years of hell fire damnation wrath of God sermons, there has been a backlash. We hear now a lot about the love of God and that is certainly good. But to be honest I am not moved by a lot of what I hear in many sermons that want to tell me how my failures ‘hurt the heart of God.’ I mean come on. One of the most basic foundational concepts in sound theology is God’s impassibility. Impassible is a fifty cent high sounding theological word that simply means that God is not moved by, manipulated by, changed by, or disturbed by anything. Nothing can disrupt God’s tranquility-else God could not be GOD! I mean, what happens to the function of the universe if we can upset God?
But the problem with believing this about God is obvious isn’t it. If I can’t touch God, if God is not moved by me in some way, how then do I have any relationship with Him? How am I supposed to be able to rest in His ‘love’ for me?
Well, this desperately needs to be answered doesn’t it? I mean, it should make all the difference in your world for good or for ill depending on how we answer this. We could spend a lot of print trying to unpack all this, but let me try to cut to the chase and tell you this much.
For God to be God He must truly be unshakable. Don’t scream and yell and run out the door thinking “Yeah, I knew it. Just as bad as I figured. God doesn’t really ‘care’ about me, all that is just religious talk.” (BTW have you ever noticed how clearly you believe God can and does FEEL and DEMONSTRATE only one sort of emotion towards you-that is ANGER? You can vividly imagine that huh? See the problem is in us, not in God.)
Here’s a very important thought. Remember in John 14 where Jesus tells us to ‘not let your hearts be troubled….in My Father’s house there are many ‘mansions.’? Of course you do. And we have all kinds of songs and sermons about our mansion over the hill top and so forth. And I am not trying to mess up anyone’s favorite songs or ideas, but as usual, the real meaning of the word mansion is far, far better than any concepts of big houses in heaven with our name on the mail box. Without going into to much word study which you probably don’t care about here, the word Jesus refers to was well known to his Jewish disciples, and it carried with it the entire idea of a special place, prepared only for you, like a bridegroom prepares for his bride. And it also implies that in this special place, there is an intimacy that belongs only to Jesus and the one He has prepared that place for.
There is in Jewish mystic philosophy a term called zimzum. It refers to the idea that for God to make room for anything other than Himself, like creation for instance, that He had to ‘withdraw Himself’ a bit, and in the empty place where He withdrew, He then created stuff. That is not all that too far out for me to believe. No there is no chapter and verse that proves it. It just makes some sense in a certain funny way. God can do that if He wants to. That’s part of being God huh? He doesn’t shrink. He just makes room for something else without shrinking.
In the same way God cannot be shaken up, emotionally wounded to the point of being unable to function. YET, Scripture says He can feel our pain-and it is important then to know that if that is true, He can feel HIS pain we cause. I believe based on MANY Scriptures that God can certainly feel in His heart, the pain inflicted by me when I treat Him the way Gary Black treated his dad. And I believe God may stand at the sink with His shoulders shaking with sobs to some degree or other. And believing that about me, and God has made a HUGE, HUGE difference in the level of closeness, intimacy, and trust between us. I need Him to feel me. We all get that. But He has made Himself able (that’s part of being God huh?) to need me to feel Him. And that need in both of us is called LOVE. It is not wishful thinking to believe, based on what we are saying here, and based on how we as humans function (made in His image and likeness) and based on Jesus Himself as the full revelation of what God is like, that we can injure God’s heart without that truth being a contradiction of God’s impassability. And that takes loving God and being loved by Him into the place where so many if they are honest, feel a big NOTHING. Many folks just try to fake it, but end up collapsing with the feeling that ‘there is really nothing at all between me and God but His frustration with my crap and my frustration with His frustration.’
God seems to be trying to tell us without overwhelming us with divine power, that He is there, and He is very interested in everything about us. But we misinterpret that as God hovering with a stick in hand trying to catch us in an easily located fault for there are SO many to choose from… And there are. But if you look behind you, you might see a lot more patient loving gentleness than you have allowed for in your memory. And I think that attitude in us really hurts God. Yeah, I think we are close enough to Him that when we don’t trust His love, we leave Him with a bruise that goes on hurting until He can help us learn better. So… let’s learn better. Starting TODAY.