I have a coaching peer whom I have gotten to know over the past six months. Actually, we met by phone 3-4 years ago after we both were in a telephone coaching group and discovered that we both were from Portland. After the group ended, we tried to get together for coffee, but nothing ever came of it. But we see each other semi-regularly now. She is about 10 years older than I am; she is short, and loud and full of laughter. I’ll call her Deborah, although that is not her name.
Deborah describes herself as an “agnostic Jew”. She is a Jew in heritage only and if she has ever practiced her faith it has been many, many years.
Last night we were at an event and Deborah was discussing the top 5 important events in her life. (it fit in context). One of the five events was her “adoption” of a younger woman she calls her granddaughter. Deborah ‘s comment was ”She needed a grand-mother and I needed a grand-child.” It wasn’t a legal adoption—the girl continued to live with her own biological parents. But she is a part of Deborah’s life and Deborah is included in special days as a part of this family.
None of that is overly noteworthy. As a lifelong single person it gave her joy to have a person to dote on, to share life with and to pour love into.
What struck me was the number of times she raised God in the accounting of this relationship. She thanks God for the granddaughter; she is totally convinced that God brought this young girl into her life. She said, God knew what each of us needed and answered the problem by giving us to each other.”
Deborah said that every night before she goes to bed, she thanks God for this girl (now young woman).
This agnostic Jew thanks God every night and prays for her wellbeing.
This woman who has never practiced a faith spoke of God working in her life.
There are two reactions one could have. One is (probably) the old me and one is the newer me. It would be very easy to rail against this woman. Many people don’t “believe” in God because of a variety of reasons—life has dealt them a difficult hand, he hasn’t answered a fervent request like they wanted, he makes demands and expectations on their life. (I’m not saying all people who profess agnosticism or atheism came to that conclusion because of those reasons, but certainly many have).
And it would be easy to look down and say what a hypocrite this woman is: she doesn’t want to acknowledge God in any other part of her life, but when it comes to warm fuzzies, she talks like there is a God and he is active in her life.
There is a time when I would have condemned her as hypocritical and superficial. I could have seen it as my role to point out to her the inconsistency of her view and, if I were quick on my feet, I might quote Job 2:10: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” The “evangelistic” part of me would have called her to repentance and to turn towards God. As I was looking up something else on the web today, I came across the title of a webpage that (unfortunately) might have described the attitude I might have taken towards Deborah: “Atheists/Evolutionists: God Almighty put eternity into your hearts and you cannot get it out!”[i]
There is another way to look, however, and that is how I choose to look at Deborah: I see this young woman as God’s reminder to Deborah of His love for her. He is still active in her life and is still, lovingly, calling her to a relationship with him. The picture of how the Deborah and the granddaughter needed one another is a metaphor for how Deborah and God need one another. My role is to rejoice with her that God is moving in this part of her life and to help her look for other areas in which God is active…and allow him to continue to draw her to himself.
It is not my job to “win her” to anything. My role may be as a friend who can point her to the God who lives and loves and wants relationship with her. But to push in too fast, too hard would almost certainly push her away. I trust in God’s timing and in God’s process. I trust that He is “winning” her to himself with his love and not by my arguments.
Why, then, can’t I do that with myself? I have my own “issues” with God. I could call them questions, but they are more than questions…they are “issues”.
Part of me wants to push God away because of hurtful things that have happened, or things that haven’t gone my way. And there is enough of the old judgmentalism within me to soundly criticize (even condemn) myself for that.
But I am slowly learning to hold that judgmentalism at arms length. Instead I focus on the things with which God has blessed me and remind myself that they are signs both of his presence and his love. Just as I am willing to be patient and wait on God’s timing for His work in Deborah’s life, so I am growing in my wiliness to be patient and wait on God’s timing for His work in my life.
What things has God put into your life as markers of his love and his desire to draw you closer to Himself? Thoughts you have on this?
[i] Wendell Tenison . “Atheists/Evolutionists: God Almighty put eternity into your hearts and you cannot get it out!”[i]Retrieved from www.thewholetruthnow.com/atheist.htm