When I describe relating to God man to man, I don’t mean to be exclusive or sexist. I mean to suggest equal-to-equal or peer-to-peer. One can only be equal with God, apart from grandiose lunacy, by imagining one’s best human potential at work in the world next to God’s most gracious acceptance of that work as good, even delightful.
This is how I understand the relationship Jesus claimed to have with God and it is no less blasphemous today than it was 2000 years ago – if all we ever do is see how un-human God is and how lucky we are to be loved in spite of our humanity, we will never approach the kind of relationship with God that Jesus appeared to have.
Martin Luther said, “Love God and sin boldly.” I say, Love God, be completely human.
Many human beings have disappointed me – but never more than by those who hid their humanity with layers of glittering images and veneers of godliness. It wasn’t until I spent many years as a pastoral therapist, discovering that human beings are composed of layer-upon-layer of truth and deceit, good and evil, hospitality and hostility, shame and initiative, love and hate, passion and rage.
A man who could sit in my office and cry like a baby over a childhood loss could also, in the next breath, cut his wife off with passive indifference when she approached him with her pain. To be completely human is to know (though not completely understand) oneself in all one’s dimensions.
It’s natural to want to hide the parts of us that are unpleasant, reactive, immature, difficult, needy, and unmanageable. It’s comforting (though unrealistic) to think that through loving God, these unwanted parts will melt away – giving way to a godly, centered, and loving person. It’s also impossible to hide who we are from everyone, all the time. The closer you get to others, the more likely they will be to stumble, wittingly or unwittingly, into your cauldron of rage. If you don’t help them know what they’re getting in to, then you’re setting them up for huge disappointment, even betrayal.
Being the king of self-censorship that I have been, I’m only too certain that I have left my own trail of people who, after meeting my shadow, felt betrayed and disappointed. It has become too much to try to manage my shadow (by figuring out new ways to conceal it) and relate to others.
One of my first acts in my peer-to-peer relationship with God was to stop worrying (as much as I could) about my shadow. I’ve got to let people see the real, uncensored me – the one who doesn’t use Christian language, the one who gets frustrated and fed up, the one who misreads a situation and reacts out of insecurity, the one who feels unfinished to the very core.