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

Updated: Feb 23, 2022


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.


I do not use stock images. See this photo in my personal photography portfolio.


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 why you ever did it? The moment I wrote this was one of those moments for me.


For the life of me, I can't 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 it was misunderstanding, painful misunderstanding. Growing up I got a strong view of how backward things really 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. I've seen some people do some really ugly things to try to solve social issues.


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 that if there is really someone so universally powerful, if he did exist; the world would live in perfect peace. And then, because I’d seen and been involved in so much relentless turmoil, my assumption was that he wasn't real.


What was I missing?


Mainly, if you want to know why so many bad things are happening, look at the parable Jesus gave of the wheat and the tares:


"The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
Matthew 13:24-30 KJV

In other words: Jesus planted a good crop (of people). The devil sabotaged it by planting bad seeds. One choice was to just destroy us all and be done. Thankfully, God loves us too much for that. But, in order to tell the difference between the good parts of the crop and the parts that need to be taken out, the good and the bad have to grow together until the harvest is ready. I've gone into much more detail about this in my podcasts called: Sorting the Crop.



I do not use stock images. See this photo in my personal photography portfolio.


Back to the main idea, “arm’s length”


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


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 that person and, suddenly, they stopped recognizing you as you were; as someone they love?


Something has happened, some kind of hidden shift in the way your loved one sees you. Suddenly, the relationship you rely on, the friendship 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 with light and encouragement. Now, you see that person reaching their arms out, not to hold you anymore, but to push you away.


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 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”. 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 I do fear 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 between any people who have love for each other. 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 and I felt pretty solid as a human.


Still, there's a serious contrast when I compare what I used to make to what I build now. 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.



I do not use stock images. See this photo in my personal photography portfolio.

I do not use stock images. See this photo in my personal photography portfolio.


So what happened when I finally 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 in a sermon like "put God first and everything else will fall in line." to actually experiencing it; it's hard to explain.


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. And in the next article in this series, as hard as it is, I will try to put that personal experience into words.


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