Putting God First - The Pain of Arm's Length (Part 1/2)

Updated: Jan 4


I’m here at my keyboard, sitting, waiting… finally typing. This is a hard article to put together. It’s because of the emotion I feel when thinking about putting down words like this, those which are about to describe one of the innermost parts of my own life, having kept someone I deeply love at arm’s length. I’m talking about God and the moments I spent pushing him to the furthest outskirts of my existence.



Why would I push God away?


Ever had one of those moments where you know you used to have a reason for a behavior, you can logically explain the behavior, but the more you get away from it, the harder it is to know or explain why you ever did it? This is one of those moments for me.


I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what benefit I could ever have from pushing God away. It gets harder every day to lay good reason over the loss of such benefits. And the more I work for him, the more efficiently he plugs me into the web of resources, the more I forget what life was like without him.


So why did I stray in the first place? Mostly misunderstanding, painful misunderstanding. Growing up, I got a strong view of how backward things generally on Earth. This came from being immersed in environments where negativity and destruction was, and still often is, the way to solve social issues. I realize, for many others this is the norm, but in my life that kind of experience often crosses into extremes.


When you’re very young, trying to understand why God would allow such extremes is next to impossible. So as many people do I figured, if there is a God, he should be what people say he is; loving, compassionate, helpful, forgiving and inclusive. I thought those aspects, coming from someone so universally powerful, should mean that if he did exist, the world would live in perfect peace. Because I’d seen and been involved in so much relentless turmoil, my assumption was that he wasn't real.


What was I missing?


This will be the subject of another article, so for now I’ll keep it short. I was missing the reasons why God would allow so much suffering on Earth. They include:

  • The devil is causing a lot of interference for his own reasons,

  • People are heavily misinformed on many important social topics. That lack of proper information is something we need to work through ourselves,

  • The human soul comes with free-will built in,

  • God’s been burned on trusting others before, severely. He lost a large number of angels when Lucifer decided he was going to turn on God. He now needs to see that people will use his power for the right reasons and Earth is a good place to test that,

  • The list goes on and on.

I was missing the fact that God does what any supportive parent would, he allows certain consequences so that we can build self-discipline. He doesn’t give in to fit throwing, over our not getting what we want.



Back to the main idea, “arm’s length”


Pause for a moment and think about one person in your life that you love immensely.


What physical traits does he or she have that make you remember them? Draw their image into your thoughts. Think about every feature they have, lines, shapes, facial features, etc.


Now pause again for a moment and think about why you love that person and what positive things they’ve added to your own human experience…



What was it that drew you closer once you started to get to know him/her? When was there a moment when you looked a this person and realized you are both important additions to each other's lives?



How hard would you fight for their safety, their sanity, their long-term companionship?


Now, what would it feel like if one day you met up with the human you just pictured, and, suddenly, they stopped recognizing you as you were, as a friend?


As you started one of your normal types of discussions, the person looked at you like they just met you, as if they didn’t understand why you, this new stranger, were trying to spark a well connected conversation without searching for common ground first.


Imagine something has happened, some kind of hidden shift in the way your loved one sees you. A wall had been built between you both for reasons unknown. Suddenly, the relationship you need to rely on, the confidant you rest with, the soul that you love so much… all of it comes to an abrupt, confusing halt.


The love that lifted you has been replaced by rebellion. When there were times of great peace within the friendship, those times are now riddled with defiance and contempt. Just moments ago, your companion would help lift you out of any hole with light and encouragement. Now, you have to look behind you, carefully avoiding a fall while sometimes turning ahead to see your favorite person reaching their arms out, not to hold you, but to hold you away.


You’ve poured your heart, soul, mind and love into helping this person build an existence, and now, all they want to do is push you out of it. It seems no conversation, no card, no gift and no plea will bring them back to you.


Loss


For anyone who’s ever experienced this type of loss, the pain seems relentless. The confusion can be boundless. And for many of us, it will never happen more than a few times in one life. But for God, the multiplication, the hurt of having so many children lost is hard for me to even fathom.


Right now I’m thinking about my little girl. A few hours before writing this, we were walking as I held her in my arms. In her tiny, adorable, little toddler voice she said, “I give hug Daddy”, then leaned toward me and pressed the side of her little face into my chest. After popping back up a few seconds later, she went on, “and a kiss”. She leaned her face toward mine and gave me a few seconds worth of sloppy, slobbery time when we pressed our lips together. I was not in the greatest mood before this, but she lifted me right up, put a smile on my face and a chuckle in my voice box.



Our baby girl when she was eight months old. This image is not available in my portfolio.

I fear almost nothing in this life, but definitely for the loss of such a relationship with my little girl. I know what kind of evil lies in wait, pining to create a turning point in any family’s strength. Turn on the news for a bit and you’ll see a short sample of a long list of tools used to cause damage to our relationships.


I sometimes fight tears at the thought of my daughter loosing her way, straying from her purpose, and the path to God that her mother and I light for her. So I can only imagine the pain God must feel when this happens every day with scores of his children. That's a pain that I helped cause for him at one point, through my own poor behavior, my own moments when I allowed evil to distract my focus on him.


It hit me too


It wasn’t just God that hurt from the disconnect between us, it was also me. While believing it was just the way life was, I’d been bent and broken down in so many ways I couldn’t count. Running my life without God was like trying to run a car without proper fuel, good oil, or a windshield.


I look back now at the times when I didn’t credit him as part of my experience. I had plenty of fun in life, had some great relationships and, at times, felt pretty solid as a human.


Still, the differences cary a stark contrast when I compare what I used to make to what I build now. In the present, I sense what comes from my own hands, my own heart, the things I create like my writing, music and photography. When I cary God’s system along with everything I do, then everything I compose looks so much deeper, brighter and more inspiring. It’s like looking at the difference between a monotone photo and one of full color.





The sermon that started this series of articles


I’ve sifted through a whirlwind of information between the time I left God out of my life, and the time of producing this website. I have a few articles that help cover that shift:


I Taught Myself to Find God

It’s complicated, not by the soul and not by God. We get confused by many other things.


Can we Really Talk to God?

It’s definitely not wise to deny connection to a source of information that goes far beyond the human collective.


The Hardest Relationships are the Strongest

The best relationships that last, they often come with the most challenging uphill battles.


Basically, in short, what the above articles say is that I went through step after step before calling God back into my life. And by the time I'd learned enough about why I should, the church we were attending held a series about thriving. One of the most powerful sermons was about putting God first.


It was a bit of a tough call, not as hard to accept as being generous, but difficult to let anyone else so far into my life, that he would be laying the pathways for myself and my family. I still have a bit of that ego where I believe a Dad should be leading his family. So to allow someone else to own the leadership of my family unit, it sounded almost insane. But here was the pastor, virtually throwing out a guarantee that putting God first would change any life dramatically, for the better. After all, my arm's-length status with him was not fully broken... yet.


So what happened when I put God first?


As promised... life happened. And, for my family and I, in no way shape or form was there any doubt, any question that life had changed for the better because of it. It was a dramatic and profound experience. Going from hearing something like "put God first and everything else will fall in line." to actually experiencing it, it's hard to explain. I imagine it would be something like watching everyone else own a home, then finally purchasing one yourself. Or it might resemble the experience of hearing about traveling to a wonderful place, then, for the first time, getting to go there and see if first hand.


It was like bringing the words in a book to life, or when I went from listening to music, to getting on stage and going live myself. I'm proud to have gone through putting God first, to now be able to tell others it works. And in the next article in this series, as hard as it is, I will try to put that experience into words.

About Me

The largest human/ broken machine you see to the left, that's me. I justify my breakage by living out a daily goal to follow Christ, and passing on how it can be done. The constant work it takes to create and maintain this presence, "Getting to God", it's my thank you for the Grace and resources given to me by my hero, my spiritual father.    Read More

 

© 2020, Shawn P Keenan, gettingtogod.com