I have recently been in a little conversation and I thought you might enjoy being a part. My friend Drew Marshall, a professing Jesus follower for many years, has seriously put his belief in God on hold, his central question revolving around the lack of communication from God and the absence of any ‘feeling’ about the reality of relationship with God. This sort of question can take us in many directions and the following is only one, but I believe an important one. It is a written conversation between me and a blogger, Mags. She posted on Twitter and I followed the link to her blog (http://www.magsstorey.com/):

Why Drew’s Search for God Scares Me
Posted on October 26, 2010 by Mags

Drew Marshall’s (www.drewmarshall.com)  search for God scares me. Terrifies me actually. As it should him too.

Because what if God doesn’t come looking for him?

If the host of the self-titled Drew Marshall radio show doesn’t get a personal message from God, by his self imposed deadline of December 18, the faithful and true will probably conclude Drew was never really looking anyway.

But is that fair?

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in the world of the spiritually mighty – as for that matter did Drew.  Like him, I sat through Sunday schools, youth groups and churches. I raised my hands. I fell to my knees. I honestly told God I wanted to know him, and wanted to be his child. And I meant it.

Yet I also know what Drew means when he says that his Heavenly Father feels like an absentee one. Sending him second-hand missives through others who seem to know him better.

When I interviewed Drew for ChristianWeek, he told me that you’d have to be “pretty thick” to somehow miss it if God was speaking directly to you. And judging by some of the responses I’ve been reading on his Twitter #droggle feed, plenty of people seem to think all blame lies with Drew. Maybe Drew is insincere. Maybe he’s insufficiently educated, or spiritually darkened. Maybe his faith has failed to reach even that minimal mustard seed level.

I’ll admit – that’s pretty much the response I would have had when I was younger. But that was before I really began admit what it’s like to fall on your knees and beg God for an answer. Or run into a church and get spiritually slapped in the face.

What it’s like to hear the echoing, infinite, silence of God. The silence barren Hannah heard for so many years when she went to the temple and sobbed. The silence Israel faced for years in exile. The silence Jesus heard when he asked his Father why he had forsaken him.

Maybe Drew’s faith isn’t “good enough” for God. But is mine? And is anyone’s really?

At the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference (ACFW) in September, Bug Man author Tim Downs pointed out the Bilble compared us to spouses who had left our first love.

“How would you win a lover back?” he asked.

Would you say, “Obviously they have forgotten how worthy I am to be praised” and send them a list of your finer attributes?

Would you say, “Obviously they have forgotten the way home” and send them a map?

Or would you woo them gently, in story and poem, unfolding who you are to them?

To me, it was a radical concept. Because I think in the church where I grew up, the presumption would be that if you somehow managed to get yourselves lost, you had to come to heel pretty darn fast before Got smote you down in your sin.

But I’d like to believe that God is more like Tim Down’s jilted lover. That God and Drew will work out something out, that only they need understand.

And that if I ever get too lost to even reach for the phone – God will take the time to find me too.

October 25, 2010

Here is the conversation that followed:

Hey Mag,
Love your thoughtful response. I also think there are things broken in our ‘receptors’ that Papa can’t forcefully heal without violating our side of the relationship; that God can’t cross without being a transgressor or becoming an abuser.

-appreciating you,


mags says:

October 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Dear Paul,

Thanks so much for dropping by! The Shack touched me quite deeply, and really appreciate the way you created such a powerful image of God’s love and person.

I find your comments about how God can not forcefully heal without violating our boundaries really challenging! Because on the one hand I do completely agree with them. I love that God shows us respect and models healthy boundaries. I love that God knocks, God waits, God whispers… It is because of that respect for our boundaries that those of us who have been abused can feel comfortable being loved by such a gentle God.

And yet, I still struggle with knowing many have a hard time hearing God because our receptors were forcibly broken by others.

We do not always chose broken receptors – and yet because of them we can not hear God or get healed?? That is not fair. It is bad enough to be hurt – how much worse when the actions of others keep us from being able to hear God.

Where is God’s mercy there? How does God reach out to those too broken to know how to even see God’s hand?

I know these are questions you have wrestled with too. And I’m thankful you have.

Wm Paul Young writes:

October 27, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Thank you for the honesty and the glimpse of some of your heart hurt. My father, for example, participated in destroying my receptors, not just to God, but to love and affirmation in the eyes of others, to any sense of self value, to honor and beauty. In part this is such a revelation of ‘respect’, that God did not ‘stop’ my father, or his father who did it to him, or his…. God submits to what we bring to the table, and then begins to weave possibilities out of the shreds of what should have been so natural, so easy, so normal. But I come a heap of hopelessness, hardly able to raise my gaze, deaf and dumb. Fair? In no way. Fair that I then turn and blame God for my inability to hear, that I have no words to heal myself or that the sensors that should be open to his Presence have been shattered into little bits of darkness. In no way fair. But thankfully, God is not petulant but understanding. So in my life God began to find small sounds that I somehow still had the capacity to hear, and for me it was often inside music, combinations of lyric, melody and harmony that put bits of me back together, let me feel and hear some wonder that lay just beyond my sight, sounds that echoed deep in the precious little that mysteriously was still alive. Then there were the surprises, like the blistering rainstorms that always pushed me into the surprise of joy and a sense of hearing something grand that some encompassed my own skin, drenching my deaf ears in hints of beyond and above. And then we demand that God talk to us in the same ways and manners that damaged us in the first place. Perhaps we hope in the certainty of the pain and its prison that we have known for so long, rather than take the risks in the new and incremental. Perhaps we would rather have God as our advertisement than our friend, our trophy rather than our lover and escape the obvious direction toward the bended knee and the torn asunder but healed heart with its ears that are beginning to pick up the simplest syllables of affection.