Don’t Worry about Being Presumptuous

August 16, 2013

6 years ago, a man said something to me that would haunt me for a long time. I had dared include this person in a vital discernment process that would involve a move, a church, a future, and everything else- or so it seemed. Perhaps I needed to learn to have better conversation partners. First lesson learned!

This man said to me in my agonizing discernment, “Well, we don’t want to be presumptuous of God.” He said this in reference to me leaving where I was to come to a new place of vocation and call. Looking back, I know this man was struggling with insecurities of his own, which prompted this sentence, but at the time, it exposed me in an incredible insecurity about God.

This phrase haunted me for years. Following me from room to room, from meeting to meeting, from Sunday to Sunday, and eventually when the bottom of life fell out from below my feet, it haunted me from tragedy to tragedy and from one sleepless night to the next. Was I being “presumptuous” of God? Is it “presumptuous” for us to discern God’s call? And if we discern his direction, is it really his direction or is it just us being “presumptuous?” When things went so terribly wrong, this sentence surfaced like stinking carcass beginning to rot in my soul. And rot it did. For years.

In some ways, that statement, though born out of someone else’s deep struggles and issues, exposed my own. If I believed the character of God was not all about goodness, then of course, such a sentence would stick somewhere in a crevice in my soul and begin to grow into a wiry mess of theological uncertainty. But yes- I did struggle with a “good God.” It had not been part of my theological framework in childhood. And while it was laced in and through my sermons and writings and readings, deep inside, there was still a question mark anytime I would declare, “God is good.” God is good? Is he? Really? I supposed he’s good to and for YOU, but me? I’m not so sure.

And so that statement from that imperfect source became a monster that chased me down the inner recesses of my heart, daring me to stop running so it could eat me alive.

I think it’s easy to wonder about God’s goodness when all goes wrong. When we find ourselves having done everything we sensed the Spirit say and it blows up in our hands. When we find ourselves at the end of loss and grief, wondering how we got this bad taste in our mouth when we had only tried to eat of God’s love. When we wonder about the future and our place in it and where is this God who can raise the dead anyway?

God- good? Really? “We don’t want to be presumptuous of God.” For me, with that last piece of bad theology hanging on in my soul, that statement exposed what I really thought of God. And so for years I worried, endlessly wringing that sentence out like a dishrag. Perhaps I was presumptuous of God? Perhaps when everything goes wrong it’s a sign that I ¬†presumed God’s will? Perhaps I am out of his goodness because I simply presumed he wanted me here?

And so the monsters of doubt were released to rage secretly in my mind and soul. And they caused me to not only struggle to trust that God had indeed led me to this place and season and time, “for such a time as this,” but they also led me to no longer confidently approach my Father with any requests. After all, if discerning his call in a direction is presumption, wouldn’t requesting his attention, care, concern, answers, guidance be just as presumptuous?

However, God is gracious. Let me repeat that: God is gracious.

Because even as this man unleashed this deep fear in my soul, God was changing my view of himself. It took a lot longer than I would have wanted. But with the advent of parenting in my life, I began to see God differently.

When my son seeks my direction, he is not being presumptuous. When he asks for things, he is not being presumptuous. When he requests my care, he is not presuming upon my thoughts. When he seeks me out, he is not presumptuous of my time. When I grant him the opportunity to choose a direction because both of his choices are good alternatives, he is not being presumptuous.

Instead, I am glad he came to me. I am eager to love him, help him, be with him, guide him. I am not waiting to pounce on him if he dare be bold enough to choose a good alternative. Especially after he has consulted with me.

Parenting has opened my eyes to the lie of that man’s statement and the havoc it wreaked on my life. I have finally been able to, for the most part, pry that sentence from it’s fortress in my heart and bury it. Instead, God is showing himself to be gentle and kind. To give good gifts, to indeed desire to shower me with all his good gifts. He delights that I seek his guidance and he delights to give it to me. And that he is even willing to take up the doubts that are planted, by my own hand or another’s, and destroy them.

As his child, I can be “presumptuous.” Just as my son is with me, I can swing open the door and walk right in where he is. I can climb up onto his lap and bury my face in his neck. I can ask him to hold me back, to speak his Story to me, to give me some sort of direction. This is my confidence. This is my God.

I regret allowing this person’s words of insecurity to become my own for so long. But I don’t regret that it happened. It would have happened anyway in some other way at some other time because I had this fear, this struggle with God’s goodness.

But I am struggling less and less. And there is freedom in that.

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