“I hope he doesn’t say those things to his people,” I whispered to myself. Looking over toward where God had just taken a seat, “I hope he doesn’t preach those things.”
“What did he say?” God asked. He was thumbing through a volume of Luther’s Works that He’d taken from my shelf.
“Well,” I said and inhaled to gain some momentum, “first he told me that I need to buck up and start trusting in You a little more. Then he said that as a pastor, my mourning on the new blog was making it look like I’d never heard the name of Jesus before, let alone heard or understood the Gospel.”
“He said that?” God asked calmly but without looking up from His book.
“More or less.”
“Did he say anything else?”
“He tried to say that Luther would agree with his words,” I added.
“No, he wouldn’t,” God countered before I could finish my sentence. “He lost two daughters to death. Those events alone kept him on his knees in anxious prayer for hours on end.” God slouched a bit in His chair and turned a page, still without lifting His gaze toward me. “And we both know he had plenty of other things worth lamenting. Believe me, he mourned. All the time, in fact. But I never doubted his trust.”
His words did not bring me comfort, but rather roped me to the image of a man who, while held by the world as unbreakable, was also the recipient of horrible tragedies that often leveled and almost incapacitated him both emotionally and physically. I could see a crumpled Luther sitting on the floor in the corner of his study. Hands folded and tears flowing, I could see his reddened face and quivering lip.
“But your friend did offer a fertile thought, by the way,” God said interrupting my wandering mind. He turned a page. “He managed to insinuate that my Son, Jesus, is at the heart of the Gospel. He’s right about that, at least.” He turned another page. “And Luther did cling to this. He struggled with it just as you do, and yet he saw it for what it was even while the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith seemed to flicker.” God set the book down and got up from His chair to fetch another. Sliding volumes in and out of their spaces, “Your friend doesn’t seem to be able to translate that image too well, just yet. He will, though. Every one of my preachers is brought into the image at some point.” He chose a volume and sat back down. “Luther called it ‘Tentatio’—struggle—and it was a big part of his theology.”
“Well, now I’m confused,” I said, “because I actually figured that you put my so-called friend up to the phone call.”
“I didn’t move him to call you,” God said. “I never weaponize the Gospel against people with broken hearts, but I do find myself cleaning up the messes of the ones who think they’re helping by back-handing a hurting Christian with the guilt of failing me.”
“So, you didn’t do this?”
“Haven’t you ever read the Psalms, my good man?” He asked. “Depths of woe, bones wasting away, exhaustion from groaning all day long—the Psalms are a trove of anything and everything except ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you faithless idiot.’” He turned a few pages in the new book. “Read Matthew 11:28-30,” He added, “and tell me if you think I like to back-hand people with the Gospel.” He put the book in His lap and pointed to me, “And while you’re at it, flip over to an even easier one—1 Peter 5:7. Then shuffle backward to Psalm 34:18. You’ll see a trend. You’ll see that I pretty much mandate for you to whine to me. Trust me, I can handle it. And I will hear you and come to your aid.”
“Just not in the way I would prefer,” I murmured.
“Because that’s quite often not the best thing,” He said and maintained the pace of the conversation. “Tell me what else he said.”
“He also thought that I was starting to sound like an Enthusiast,” I said, “because of the way I’ve been writing lately.”
“Yeah,” I said. “He mentioned that the stuff I’m writing is distracting, all these ‘discussions with God.’ He said it makes me sound like I’m privy to some sort of special revelation outside of the Word. You know… an Enthusiast.”
“I know what an Enthusiast is, Chris.”
“He thought that by doing this I might be confusing my readers.”
God sat quietly for a moment. He closed the book and then looked up. “Is that what you believe?”
“That I’m confusing my readers? Probably.”
“No,” He said with a smile emerging from an easy gentleness. “I mean do you believe that you are privy to special revelation apart from my Word?”
“Of course not,” I said clearly. “When I don’t know what’s going on, I go to what I know, to what You have revealed, and that’s where I plant myself.” God looked as though He was about to speak, but I interrupted. “I’m writing the things that I am because it’s therapeutic. It’s a way for me to think through Your Word, to sort of… be a pastor to myself when no other pastors are around, to listen in a way that unpacks Your promises when it feels like everything is coming undone and I’m hanging on by the thinnest of fibrils.”
I looked toward the window where a chipmunk had chosen a seat on the sill, as if he wanted to catch a quick glimpse of the Creator. “I figure it may be of some help to others, too.”
“Good enough,” God said and got up to leave. Turning back to me, He asked, “By the way, what did you say to your friend?”
“Well,” I said and once again inhaled to gain some thrust, “I told him to go to hell. More or less.”
“Hmm,” God hummed. “Interesting.”