Wanting God from that which is not God

Matthew 14:28-33

Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came towards Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind he was afraid, and began to sink.

The more people set their eyes on the king’s servants and the more attention they pay to them, the less heed they pay to the king and the less they esteem him.

~St. John of the Cross

This quote has been in my mind for the last two weeks. I feel it names very succinctly what is poisoning so many minds and spirits within the church.

With regard to what we call “church” today, I’m convinced that a large portion of our dysfunction, lack of spiritual health and growth, confusion, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness is due to the fact that we seem to be focused on everything but God.

Most of us would readily agree that there is an obvious toxicity that comes to anyone who is focused on their own problems, on what is wrong with everything, or on what they don’t have.

Yet there’s also a damaging negative impact on spiritual (and emotional) health that comes from too much focus on “good things” that are not Christ Himself. Perhaps it’s looking to preachers, worship leaders, authors, or maybe even “non-human” good things such as books, church services, social justice programs, theology, music, morality, or podcasts.

It’s not that these deserve zero attention, but I believe they have been the stars of our Christian show for a while now, and it’s getting really old, boring, and frustrating. At most, their role should be “supporting cast”.

It’s amazing how many people I’ve encountered over the years who only have an idea of what God is like based on that which is not God. Our earthly parents, especially our fathers, are our first representation of God for most of us, be it good or bad. Then there’s preachers, popes, church people, books or whatever. But rarely do I meet someone who has an unhealthy view of God which came from their actual seeking of God through Jesus, through Scripture, specifically the gospel accounts. Whenever people express their unhealthy views of God, I gently direct them to Jesus Himself, and ask them, “What do you think of Him? All other distractions aside–church people, tragedies, etc. Who is He really?” Generally, there’s silence, some thought or confusion, and then, “I’ve not really thought about that.”

And that is understandable. Few have been challenged with that direct question. But that is the most important question:

“Who do you say that I am?”

That was Jesus’ question on earth two millennia ago, and it is His question to you right now.

“Who do you say that I am?”

At some point, we must all face this question with no help from anyone else.

Please know that I am in no way saying we cannot or do not encounter Christ through other people or countless material sources. I’m just reminding us to ask ourselves, “What am I really seeking?”

Or better,

Who am I really seeking?”

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