God is an Embarrassment in Our Lives

We actually don’t know what to do with God.  At least, we don’t know how to share our feelings about Him without seeming awkward or out of place.   We go to the weekly Mass, say our prayers, but don’t think much about it.   We set Him aside in the corner of our heads, and find it uncomfortable to talk about Him to others.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how we make saints as the bogeyman to shy us away from holiness, let alone piety.  For what are saints but superhuman beings who follow God’s laws to the letter, think of nothing but God, pray to God constantly, and praise Him in equal measure?  They are far detached from the worries of the world, do not give themselves an ounce of allowance to sin, and are consequently not realistic.   It’s true that we’ve read stories of how ordinary men and even sinners turned their lives around and became saints, but it is like the stories we read in comics about average people suddenly imbued with super powers and become bigger-than-life superheroes.

Sainthood—or even holiness—requires a level of sacrifice, dedication, and single-mindedness that seems to ignore or at least take into account the worries we have in the worldSaints do not worry of earning a daily bread, for they “nourish themselves on the Word of God”.   Neither do they think of families or friends, for they “cherish only the company of Christ”.    And how many saints have you read or heard that did not “turn the other cheek” before their enemies?

We look in reverence but distance at holy communities, missionaries and holy men who have dedicated themselves to God and a religious way of life.

Saints are not realistic.  They live on a different plane of existence to ordinary mortals who have life and living to think about.   In a lesser degree, we attribute the same “faults” to priests.   We look in awe but distance at these men who detach themselves from the world and try to live and preach an exemplary way of life.   That’s why any attempt at piety immediately triggers embarrassment, and a suspicion of hypocrisy.   Nobody can be that good.  Nobody should be that good.  It’s too idealistic to be true.

We need allowance for sin.  The same allowance that saints seem to kindly look down upon is essential for our daily lives.   We need little white lies to appease when the truth would hurt.  We partake of sin because it is entertaining, and we partake of sin because it is popular.   And a little of it can’t be that wrong, because we are human, it is in our moral nature to sin every once in a while.

That’s the kind of slippery slope many fall into.  A small sin becomes a habit.  It leads to bigger sins.   One becomes desensitized to committing sin and pretty soon can do grave wrongs without batting an eyelash.

There’s a level of hypocrisy that we all possess.   We profess to wanting to do good, but we give ourselves allowance to sin because we can’t take it.   We profess to loving God, and believing in His benevolence, but we invoke His name when we curse others, our fate, or our fortunes.   We talk of putting God at the center of our lives, but He is furthest in our thoughts.   It’s an acceptable hypocrisy, and sometimes we think it’s not one at all.

God is an embarrassment in this modern world.   We like to think that this is not true, that we do good by Him and follow His commandments.   We have not done anything wrong with Him, and have not offended Him.  (You may not be perfect, but you’re not a monster either.)    But you hold up a Bible, and try to talk a conversation about God, and people will look the other way.   Try to pray the rosary in public, and people will feel awkward or even mock you.   Try to talk about piety, and people will start asking if you’re a priest or want to be (because that’s what priests do).

God may be an important part of our lives, but we can’t have time for Him.   It’s too much effort to pick up a rosary, or read the Bible.   It’s too much effort to read the doctrines or study the Faith.   Saints do that.  Superhuman, comic book saints.   There are more important things to do, and a lot of them.   We can’t afford to spend our free time, when there is, on prayers.   It’s too much work.

We actually don’t know what to do with God.  At least, we don’t know how to share our feelings about Him without seeming awkward or out of place.   We go to the weekly Mass, say our prayers, but don’t think much about it.   We set Him aside in the corner of our heads, and find it uncomfortable to talk about Him to others.

There’s a problem with this.  When we love someone, it’s not enough not to do anything wrong with that person.   We have to show actively that we care.   We give tokens of affection, and we try to get to know them.   We show off, and profess our love for them.   We commit ourselves in a relationship and when we truly love someone, we profess our love before God in marriage.  We put them at the center of our lives.

If we don’t do that, then they are no more important to us as a stranger.   If you don’t profess love with someone, but at least talk to them and share a common interest, you’re friends.   If you maybe not share a common interest, but are tied together by a deeper bond either by relationship or kinship, you’re family.   But if you don’t tie to them by commitment, friendship, or kinship, then what is that person to you?   Familiar strangers at least turn into acquaintances if you start to talk to them.   Distant strangers pass you by everyday and you don’t give time to remember their faces.

It’s worse with God.   We’re actually embarrassed to talk about Him.   He’s like that guy with too much baggage.  Or hiding some secret nobody knows about, but can sense is there.   We are actually forced to talk to Him only when we need something.

It’s also embarrassing to admit we’re embarrassed.   We’re all good people, and we don’t put God in the back burner.   We thank Him everyday for the blessings our family receives.  Or the every day we are alive.   Or maybe for the little things that grace our lives.  Just not in prayer.  And we don’t mention it every day, but we feel it, right?

But where is God in our lives?  He’s certainly not at the center.   Do we share a common interest?   (We expect God to save us. That’s something common.)  Do we try to get to know Him?   (Why?)  Do we profess our love to Him every day?  (We pray, right?   We ask Him to bless us and our loves ones.)   Are we tied to a deeper bond when we are willing to give our lives not to lose Him, like family?  Can we give our lives—literally—for His sake?   (He’s important, but not that important.  We’re not martyrs.)   Do we even talk to Him?  (We pray, maybe when we have time.)

 So we don’t talk to him, don’t share a common interest, don’t talk about loving Him everyday.   We’re not fixated with His radiance.   We’re not filled with joy with Him.   We’re not willing to give ourselves up for Him, or give anything up for Him.   We don’t have any real relationship with God, except the most offensive one.  We expect that stranger to give us something.   He’s our dealer.   We give only what is due, and He gives something in return.

The sad part is—He gives it.  We talk about it every week in Mass, or read it in the Bible, or hear it being said.   We hear about how He sent His only son to us, who died for our sins and just made everything better.   That He continues to shower us blessings everyday.   It’s so common knowledge that we’ve memorized every line (well maybe not every line but the substance of it).   This is an all powerful God who actually bent down on all fours giving His only son for our sins, reaching out to save us—who did nothing, and didn’t even deserve saving—and He’s the embarrassment.

I don’t profess to be holy or even seeking piety; God’s as much a stranger to me.   But it’s a profound revelation to know that He’s this stranger to us, after all that’s been said and done.   It’s a profound loss to know that He’s no more than a dealer to us.   And this is the biggest question: how can we love a total stranger?   We find Him a big embarrassment because we can’t do anything about Him.   And we’re embarrassed because in truth, He’s no more than a stranger to us.

You may also read:
Sainthood and the Moral Horizon
Why does Evil Fall on the Just
A Parable on Social Justice