Iím a Christian. The neat sort of Christian, a life tidily boxed in. Sundays are for church, sex is for married people, that kind of Christian. I pray my neat little prayers, thanks for sunlight and good mothers, healing for floral dressed women I donít see any other day of the week. I read my Bible, blink away the passages about burning and screaming and torment, write the kinder verses on my heart in pencil. I love God, of course I do. But heís more like an uncle I only see on special occasions than a father.
The pastor encourages us to change this, to draw close to a God with arms flung wide open and an expectant smile. My mental image of God flickers depending on the sermon subject. Sometimes God is on the brink of a fit of anger, sometimes he looks sadly on at our empty lives, the hearts we wonít let him into.
My pastor is the kind of Christian that gets passionate about God. He uprooted to North Korea for two years once, and we were left with the youth pastor, tall and nervous and not quite sure if his slang would offend the ladies with hats who sit on the back pew and call out an Ďamení at least once a sermon. He smiles when he talks about God, like heís talking about a lover, like heís Solomon singing of myrrh-damp hands that brighten even his cynicism. He means it when he sings Ďyouíre my everythingí.
Some days I wish I could love like that, heart ablaze, hands to the sky. Some days Iím glad I get to keep a corner of my heart for me, for my family, for everything I put before God. He talks about giving everything to God, and sometimes I listen, put an extra note in the offering bag, tell my neighbour about the potluck dinner. Itís scraps of time, nothing like the worth we sing about in our choruses, floating to the top of the spire, reflecting in the stained glass.
Listening to God is one of his favourites. My heart skips when I think about it. We all get thoughts that pop into our head, donít we? Should I offer to pray? Should I say ĎJesus loves you even if you donítí? Should I wear an ĎI heart Jesusí T-shirt to meet my Dawkinsite best friend? Considering that the driftwood of the mind might be messages from God himself makes them a lot more daunting, a lot less easier to dismiss with a laugh and a reminder that talking about God too much doesnít make people like him more.
He likes growing to love God more too, talks about every amazing quality he can find in his Bible, makes God sound better than Iíve ever experienced with a song in my throat and hope ringing in my chest. Maybe God wants me to go to North Korea too. Maybe he wants me to put my arm around my best friend and say that God wants to hold her too. I keep my arms by my sides, forget that his love fills up more than just our universe. My God can fit in this dusty old building. Itís safer that way.