Years ago I struggled quite a bit with the concept of God. I mean, who, what is he/she/it? What does it want? I didn’t get it. Like many, I simply, and all too quickly, brushed the whole idea aside. I couldn’t be bothered with fruitless endeavors fraught with contradiction, and I certainly didn’t want to be associated with religious people. Relating my frustrations to a friend, he said simply, why don’t you ask God to show himself to you.
So I did.
Some of the journey that ensued for me can be found in the pages of this blog. But what I want to point out here is that doubt, questions, skepticism, combined with the accompanying anger, confusion, and frustration are all acceptable steps toward God. In other words, God’s okay with our doubts, fears, worries, lack of trust. He even expects it.
Jesus tells a very short parable of two sons. In it, the father asks the first son to go and work the vineyard. The son refuses, but then later changes his mind and does his father’s will. The second son says sure thing, but never actually goes to work. While a lot can be pulled from this teaching, the first son’s refusal is an example of our refusal of God’s will for us – even of God himself.
God’s okay with this.
Here’s the parable from Matthew 21:28-32:
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Changing one’s mind (repenting) is always a slow process. And we can even hold out hope for the son that doesn’t change his mind. In short, Jesus was absolutely swarmed by people looking for signs and miracles to prove who he was so that they might believe. While he performed many, he was inviting people into something much deeper and bigger than a miracle – the Kingdom of God. This requires a change in thinking.
We have to change our minds. It’s what the religious folks call repentance – and it can take time. It’s a process, like a seed. When a seed is first put in soil it’s quite anti-climatic – nothing happens! But with a little water and sunlight that tiny seed dies and begins life anew.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson