When God Takes Away: Fear vs. Truth

“When are you going to get this fixed?” my husband asked as he picked up my cell phone and started at the three spider web cracks in the screen protector, framed by two oblong bubbles. “I guess I am just so used to them that don’t even notice them anymore,” I replied with a shrug.

            From broken screens to smudges on my eyeglasses to made up stories in my head, I can become accustomed to a wide range of perspectives that are not ideal. As with the fiberglass cover on my phone, I eventually stop noticing at all. This is why I am excited about Lent this year. The story of Zechariah reacquaints me a with few, old cracks in my perception of God, and challenges me to get curious about them.  

            One way of reading Zechariah’s story is that God hands an innocent, elderly priest a big, unfair consequence because he did not have enough faith. When the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah, he will be unable to speak because he doubted the angel’s wild message, I am tempted to speed read to another part of the story. I want to continue on as normal like I do with my cell phone, because the truth is that this part of the story makes me angry. It feeds one of my beliefs about God that is deeply ingrained but not helpful: God expects us to have perfect faith.  

            But what if there is another way to read this story?

            For me, Lent is about giving up the box I build around God. The limitations I place on Him. The ways I make God fit into my understanding of how the world works. Beliefs about him that are not really true. So, I come to the story of Zechariah with a shift in perspective: “How can I find what I know to be true about God, instead of what I fear is true about Him, in this story?” I fear God expects my faith to be flawless, but I know God loves our honest questions. After all, why would God want me to pretend I believe something when He knows my heart better than I do?

            When I get caught up in the vision in my head of Gabriel pointing a shaming finger at Zechariah, I miss the game-changing statement Gabriel makes next: “but my words will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Here lies the truth about God. He accepts Zechariah’s doubt, and nothing changes about the way he sees Zechariah or what He is going to do for him. God could move on to the next guy. He could go search for a Yes-man who won’t ask his angels any questions. He could also say something like, “Maybe after you suffer in silence, you’ll believe in me. Then we can talk again.” But he does none of these.

            When I cling to the truth of a God who loves our honest questions, I like to imagine a quick conversation between Gabriel and God that goes something like this:

            Gabriel (freaking out): What do I do now? He doesn’t believe me!

            God (lovingly reassuring): It’s ok, we can work with this. Zechariah’s my guy, no matter what. I know who he is and I chose him. Nothing in my plan changes just because he asked an honest question. In fact, I will use his doubt to help him and others.

            Maybe God really does not expect our faith to be flawless after all.

If you are still stuck on the fact that Zechariah’s voice is taken away just because he asks a question, me too. In next week’s post, we will dive into that one.