Sometimes I think of God as my personal Genie, be-turbaned and bespectacled replete with a goatee and purple robe. A magnificent figure who lives to grant my every wish (because there are no limits on wishes!)
Of course, if you asked me how I view God, “genie” would not be my first response. I would be more apt to say something Christian-like and churchified like Reedeemer, or Friend, or Savior. But, in reality, I treat him more like a guy who lives in a lamp then like the Savior of the world.
It isn’t personal, of course. I pick and choose the scriptures that support this view: ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened — if that doesn’t sound like abracadabra then I don’t know what does. Two other scriptures that come to mind are: With God, all things are possible, and With God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). See, just ask God and He will make the impossible (me being a billionaire), possible! Sadlly, the God-As-Genie-Theology falls apart once it meets the slightest wind of resistance or even a pillow-soft obstacle. It particularly crumbles under the heft of a difficult life.
Earlier this year when my job situation grew particularly awful, I would often find myself rubbing on the lamp to get the Genie to grant my wish. I would ask for him to grant me victorious and defeat my enemies; I also prayed for a direct lightning strike than never materialized, but mostly I asked for an end date to my suffering. I wanted to be off that ship and out of that environment. I wanted to go anywhere that wasn’t where I was. I wanted mostly for the entire ordeal to be over already. My prayers seemed to be on a möbius loop that went something like this: Dear Genie, make this be over already, I don’t want to be here anymore. I can’t deal with this craziness. Make it stop. Except it didn’t stop. So I tried pleading: Dear Genie, you said that nothing is impossible for you so why don’t you make this stop. Why don’t you take me away from this place? Why don’t you help me? The Genie never answered me, but God did.
I was reading a devotional this week which highlighted the issues with my God-As-Genie-theology: a woman was asking God a similar question regarding his perceived lack of assistance in dealing with a serious difficulty and God’s response to her was “what makes you think that I am not helping you?” And her response — which seems to be the crux of the argument in my ongoing civil war with God — was because it’s hard.
My life is hard. Remarkably hard for someone with a Genie-God who gives her her heart’s every desire. Some days it takes considerable effort to put one foot in front of the other and remarkable self-restraint to keep from running in the opposite direction. If God exists solely to give me my heart’s desire then what does it mean when I don’t get my heart’s desire and my life is difficult to boot? Either God isn’t a Genie or I am doing something completely wrong.
I looked up the context of Luke 1:37. It comes at the end of the incarnation story. The Angel Gabriel has just delivered the news to teen-aged, unwed, virginal Mary that she’s going to have God’s child, the Savior of the world. He follows up the gospel – the good news –with an oh-by-the-way, your cousin, Elizabeth (the old, barren one) is 6 months pregnant with a son. And that is when he says: for with God, nothing is impossible.
Nothing. That includes barren wombs, horrible bosses, unwed mothers, or any other situation in which you find yourself. Nothing is impossible with God! My God-As-Genie theology often confused this with Nothing is hard with God. Which, empirically speaking, is untrue. Life is difficult, but God promises to walk with us through it, to give us Grace and strength when we need it most, and to bring us new mercies each morning. When I think of rubbing on my lamp, I remind my self that impossible ≠ easy, and I try praying instead.