I spent most of my life hating God.
Yes, I know as a good Christian (whatever that’s supposed to mean) I’m not supposed to say that and most of the people who know me will be shocked to read it. But there it is.
Honestly, I didn’t realize it until I finally watched The Shack. While watching, three things happened:
- Crying more in two hours than I have in the last two decades.
- Celebrating I’m not the only one who has undergone radical shifts in my understanding of the divine (thus discovering play).
- Recognizing that I spent most of my life hating God.
Let’s explore the third a bit more.
Hating God Through Fear
I grew up in a traditional and liturgical church body. Each week, we had a confession of sins. The version etched in my memory goes like this:
I a poor miserable sinner, confess unto thee all my sins and iniquities, from which I have every offended thee, and justly deserve thy temporal and eternal punishment.
For those wanting the cliff notes, it’s something like, “I’m trash and deserve to be thrown away.”
Now, there’s another space in my young life where others treated me like trash. The kids who relentlessly bullied me throughout elementary school and beyond.
I feared my bullies. Most days between third and tenth grade, I went to school afraid. But I wasn’t just afraid of my bullies. I hated them for making my life a living hell.
God, as I understood the divine, was the grandest bully of them all. It was only natural to extend the hatred from the bullies I knew to the one I confessed.
Hating God Through Blame
I can’t explain why, but I grew up feeling a deep sense of isolation.
I have memories, scenes a few seconds long where I can see activity going on around me, but I stand alone. Being at a bowling alley. My dad’s MBA graduation. The installation of the organ at Hosanna Lutheran Church. All of these came before my fifth birthday.
But more than just the memories, recalling each incident brings the sensation of being completely alone in the world. With that remembrance comes a deep sadness and sense of worthlessness.
While I can’t explain these feelings, I know that I blamed the God who created me only to abandon me. In time, blame turned to hate.
Hating God Through Control
At this point, the natural question might be, “Why even keep God in the equation?” Here I have two responses.
- I didn’t have anywhere to go. I was a kid desperately longing to belong … to be safe … somewhere … anywhere. But there was no place that I turned that I felt welcome.
- I tried. As I understood it, house law said that I would complete my confirmation classes and profess my faith (in the God I hated) at the end of 8th grade. Personally, I saw that as my graduation from the church. For all intensive purposes, after that, I’d be out on time served.
It was about that time the strangest thing happened. An adult named Ken, who helped out with my parents’ church’s youth group, decided he wasn’t going to let me drift away. Beyond that, as he included me in youth events, I started making friends. Suddenly I found myself in a quandary.
How to hate God when the one place I belonged was my church? My solution, control. To control another is just another form of hatred. I used my intellect and the discipline of theology to force God into a box. I placed myself in the position of, as my master’s degree implies, a master of the divine.
Beyond Hating God
While I wouldn’t describe it this way at the time, my dissertation was essentially an exercise in moving past my hatred of God. That’s right, a doctoral degree in ministry culminating in the search for a God I could actually love.