Our Imaginary God

I never had a clue. Earlier in our marriage, I was driving on a long trip in our car, and Nancy was sitting in the passenger seat. We went down some very curvy roads in the Appalachian Mountains. Nancy gripped the door handle very firmly. We went around another curve in the road, and I saw her gripping the handle again. “Huh!”, I thought to myself. I don’t remember seeing her do that before. This continued throughout our journey that day. The next day, we were driving at much slower speeds along some city streets. As I made a right hand turn, she gripped the handle again. “Really?”, I thought. The next time I turned, I slowed down much more, so that there was barely any feeling of centrifugal force at all as we turned. Again, she still reached for the handle.

Later that day, I asked her how long she had been doing that.

“For several years”, she said.

And am I driving in a careless way?

“No, not at all”, she said.

So why are you white knuckling the door handle?

She explained that it was just ‘in case something happened’. She didn’t want to be spilled across the front of the car.

Wow! I didn’t realize she did it all the time. I remember seeing her do that a little over the years, but not that much. It was mildly irritating, making me seem like I’m some reckless race car driver. And all during our years of dating and being engaged, I don’t think I ever saw it.

I’m sure there are things Nancy didn’t notice that I did during our dating and engagement. One of them was probably that she didn’t realize how much I love stupid practical jokes. She knew I liked humor, but I don’t think she knew how much of a kick I get out of stupid pranks.

For instance, I had a very phoney looking rubber finger that fit over my pinky finger, with a very large, bloody gash in it. I would sometimes be in another room, scream bloody murder, see Nancy come running over, and I’d show her my terrible – but fake – wound. She would look at me with piercing eyes that said, “An I almost dropped a cake because of this?” Then, she would retreat until the next time I brought out the peanuts that jump out of a can or huge phony sunglasses.

When we were younger, just starting to get to know each other, we had imaginary versions of each other in our heads. To Nancy, I was the suave, debonair man who would sweet talk and charm her every time I came into the room. She probably had no clue that I might have a fake pinky wound on my hand.

Similarly, I saw Nancy as someone who enjoyed every minute of her time with me and was confident of my skills in everything I did. I didn’t realize she was concerned that my driving might cause her to end up going through the windshield.

We each had our imaginary views of what the other person was like. We had our dreamy-eyed thoughts about the one we were in love with.

And then reality hit. We realized that the other person sometimes did things we didn’t understand. Or didn’t agree with. But that was okay. I was still her husband, and she was still my wife. We weren’t perfect, but we still loved and admired each other.

Recently, I saw a movie where a mother was crying. She told her little boy that she didn’t think she was a good mother. (She actually was.) The boy said, “That’s okay. You’re Mom.” His Mom was being Mom, and that was okay, even if she wasn’t perfect, and he loved her.

That applies as well to our view about God.

Recently, authors of “How to Be a Perfect Christian” sarcastically quipped, “The God of the Bible would never do anything you would personally disagree with.” That is a modern-day motto of many people concerning how they think God is. They believe He will only do things they think make sense. He would never do something that challenges their preconceived notions of Him.

Many atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers see God as someone who only does things THEY believe are proper. He must be anti-war. He must be pro-choice. He must think it’s okay to live in sexual immorality. After all, he is all-loving. He doesn’t have any objections to anything, because objections would mean he doesn’t love.

So when they read the Bible, they see only what they want to see. They step over the verses they don’t believe. Because God couldn’t possibly be like that.

Or they just give up on God. If God is like THAT, I just won’t be a Christian.

But if we believe God exists, we will not start with the notions in our mind about who God is and how he behaves. We will let him reveal himself.

He famously told Moses, “I Am that I Am.” There is a lot in that sentence, but one aspect is that God will be who He will be. God said that when he was a burning bush that did not burn up in the fire. No one had ever seen God in that way. Could that really be God? It didn’t fit how Moses understood God to be. But it was God.

Many today who don’t – or won’t – believe in God are really just dealing with their belief in an imaginary God. They start out with who they think God must be. When they find out that He is different, many don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to deal with a real God who acts in ways that run counter to our cardboard cutout of God.

If you truly want to seek God and consider whether the Christian God is true, you need to discard your notions of what you think God is and make Him match up to your expectations. Instead, you need to let him reveal himself to you through God’s Word and allow him to be formed in your mind as He really is.