As a little girl sitting in one of the front few pews of our church, I could feel the curve of the wooden pew behind me. It made me very conscious of my posture. I would sit up tall and arch my back to match the backward curve of the pew. As I straightened out I would look straight over my head and look at the smooth wooden beams reaching up from the ground and forming peaked arches above my head. In front of me, behind the stage, I remember a long, forest green, velvet curtain which draped across the back of the stage hanging from a height of seemingly three stories high all the way down to the floor. Projecting from the center of the dark curtain was a simple wooden cross. Every week I would stare at the curtain and that cross. Somewhere in my young brain I had formed the conviction that Jesus Himself hung dead on a cross behind that curtain. I lived in part-fear and part-curiosity to peak behind it and see. I never did look.
At that age already I believed in Jesus. I would have agreed with all the basic premises of the Christian faith. I believed in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And I believed in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord. I believed he suffered. I believed he died. I believed he rose again on the third day. And yet, in that big, beautiful sanctuary, somewhere in the back of my mind, Jesus was hanging behind a curtain, fixed in a single location.
Similarly, in my childhood brain, my perception of God the Father was also static. Looking back, my subconscious thinking was pretty simple: He is the Sovereign, All-Powerful God—almost like an inanimate object far away. We can either love and obey him and live, or reject him and die. In terms of a basic theology these impressions held some truth; however, they completely lacked an understanding of God’s heart and His character. In my simple mind, with Mighty God at a distance, it was up to me to work to get close to Him. I saw Him as a huge being, standing there, waiting for me to do the majority of the work in the relationship. God did His part when He sent His Son to die. Now it was my turn to do the rest of the work. I was optimistic that it was an attainable goal, but the burden of the desire and the effort fell to me.
If you really pause to think about it, where is God in your mind’s eye? Perhaps you see Him seated on His throne. Maybe his arms are crossed. You may see him leaning forward. It could be, like young Carrie, you see Jesus hanging on the cross, freeze-framed in that ultimate act of love.
However you picture God in your mind, in reality, He is actively looking for you. Like the Father of the Prodigal Son, God is running toward you with undignified speed to welcome you into His arms and draw you into relationship with Him and into His family. God is not static, nor is He too busy for you. He is an active Being who desires our friendship. He is working to win our hearts with patient tenderness and invites us into deeper intimacy with Him. We are not in a one-sided relationship. Though we may not always recognize it, the God of the universe is moving toward us, offering us His love and care.
Every year I still go back to the church I grew up in. Now I sit in those same pews and I still arch my back to correct my posture. I still look up and drink in the beauty of those arching beams and all the wonderful architecture. Since my childhood, the church remodeled the stage area. Gorgeous modern wood paneling replaced the old velvet curtain behind the altar. Instead of a simple wooden cross mounted on the wall, now a large metal cross is suspended from the ceiling in front of the paneling. As I sit there, I have no fear and no delusions about a dead man hanging just out of sight. Instead, my heart is full of expectation of being with the One who is alive, active and running to embrace me.
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash.