Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Too Close to God, or Not Close Enough?

A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts. Song of Solomon 1:13

A rare silence had descended upon the Oak Street Bible Shop. Joy, seated upon her stool, looked over her little domain with quiet satisfaction.

Gary had turned off the embossing machine, having just imprinted the green leather cover of a King James Bible with gold leaf letters spelling out “Jean Kimball Taylor”. Such an elegant name he thought to himself. He gently burnished the words with a little piece of suede, loving the touch of it.

Sue was restocking the shelves from a cardboard box, carefully lifting it each time she moved along. Don’t drag the carton over the polished floor, she thought, don’t want to scuff the boss’s shining floor.

In the back room Glen was working with his multi-tool, fashioning an s-hook from a section of coat hanger wire. “This oughta hold it,” he said, referring to a cage of peanut flavored suet. The racoons had broken the little chain that held it to the post by the bird feeder.

Joy glanced at his work with approval. “I was walking around the iris bed the other day, and when I looked up I wasn’t three feet from a little woodpecker pecking away at the suet. He didn’t notice me until I got real close. Then he took off in a big hurry.”

“Must have been a downy,” said Glen with a smile. They get so preoccupied sometimes, they forget to look around, until you are right by ‘em.”

Sue looked up from her box of books. “Saint Francis said the birds and other animals were not afraid of him. They knew he would not harm them.”

“You feed’em every day, but the birds still act like you are going to hurt them. Makes me feel ashamed that that’s the way I am with God sometimes. He loves me, takes care of me, and still when I think He is too close, I get scared and back away.”

Gary put the green Bible into its box and slid the top over it. “Maybe we all feel a little scared of God sometimes. I mean there is a natural reverence, isn’t there, that we should feel? My preacher told about a young girl who thought nothing of hitch hiking all by herself. When her mother found out she did it, she freaked.

"'I’m not in any danger,' she told her mother. 'I have Dad to look out for me.' Her mother questioned her. 'Dad?' The daughter pointed up to the sky. 'You know, that Dad.'

“My preacher felt that was close to blasphemy,” Gary concluded.

Joy, thinking of her own daughter, said, “Well, I sure don’t like the idea of her hitch hiking. But what’s the difference between 'Dad' and 'Abba'? That’s in the Bible. It’s the same as 'Daddy'."

Glen had returned from hanging up the suet cage, and listened with interest.

Sue, holding her empty book box, started for the basement steps, then paused. “I have a friend who is troubled over how close we should be to God,”, she said. “I mean, how intimate."

The others were familiar with Sue’s “friend”, and suspected she was referring to herself in this way.

Sue continued. “She told me that sometimes when she can’t sleep, she talks to God, just like he is right there with her. There’s nothing wrong with that is there?”

"There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24," quoted Gary. “Isn’t God our friend?”

“Sure,” Sue replied, “But sometimes I want more than that.”

Joy smiled at her. “You mean your friend does?”

Sue blushed. “Yeah, my friend, but me too.”

Glen joined in. “Sometimes people try to make a distinction between what they call the Old Testament God and the God of the New, like there are two of Him. The Bible lets us know that God is not to be trifled with, taken lightly as so many do today.

"But when Our Lord Jesus paid for every sin that once separated us from the Father, the Bible says He opened up the way for us. We can draw close to God now. I heard McGee say that many of us think of God with his arm drawn back, ready to strike us with righteous anger every time we sin.”

“Many of us see our own fathers in God," said Joy. “I know I did, and still do. If we had a harsh father, that is how we see our heavenly father.”

“Or a distant father,” added Sue.

“Sin must be paid for before we can approach God. Oh how we hate to hear that! But it has been paid for. That’s the thing. The One who demands the penalty is the One who paid for it, through his Son.”

Glen grimaced, “I hate the sound of myself saying that. That’s not how I talk. It’s 'preacher talk'. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I slip into it is all.”

Joy looked at Glen sympathetically. “I guess we all do, she said. “But how should we say it, then?”

“I’d rather see it,” he answered. “Much as I like words, I think we overlook the scenes in the Bible, how things looked."

He opened his New Testament and leafed through the Gospel of John until he found the place he had in mind.

"Now there was leaning on Jesus bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. John 13:23."

“Like a silent movie,” said Gary. “What impression would you get if you saw a picture of God as a man with one of his friends reclining his head on his chest?”

“It’s okay,” said Sue, “I’m not mad at you, I love you. Come close to me. Lean on me. Everything is okay.”

“Your friend has the right idea, Sue,” said Glen. “We don’t get too close to God. Jesus showed us that. The trouble is, we don’t get close enough.”

Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Jeremiah 23:23

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