Have you ever read something that just stopped 🛑 you in your tracks? I just did. I am currently re-reading through a book by CS Lewis entitled "The Screwtape Letters." This is a great fictional letter correspondance between a head demon named Screwtape and his nephew. In this book, a demon is assigned to every person and their goal is to pull them away from God. Screwtape is mentoring his young nephew in how to do this over the course of someone's life. It is a great take on understanding our lives from the perspective of the demonic world and what really counts in our lives.
Every year I go through this book and it never ceases to shake my thought process and challenge my focus in life. We get so caught up in so many things that have no eternal significance. Lewis does a masterful job helping us grapple with what counts in the grand scheme of things, what is actually done in service to our enemy, and where we can grow in freedom.
Today, I was reading through chapter 8 and the below statement knocked me back. Screwtape is writing about God and telling his nephew that God's goal is for His creation to grow from slaves to sin to His sons. The relationship is more like father and child rather than master and slave. Because of this, God will sometimes treat us like children who need to grow up. He is there but, He lets us grow through experience.
"He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys." Screwtape Letters (Chapter 9)
As a parent, I completely understand this. The goal of being a parent is to teach your child to grow up. During the process of growing up, what brings me the most pride is watching my kids take steps toward maturity. I am not looking for perfection. I am looking for progress and a willingness to try. This is exactly what God will do in our lives. He will grow us at a rate we can stand. He isn't even looking for success. He is looking for effort and a willingess to 'fail forward.'
In our modern culture, this idea of Christianity has been lost. Many see Christianity as a benefits program and not a relationship. Here is the difference.
A benefits program is concerned with keeping customers happy. The best relationships are willing to enter seasons of unhappiness if it means we grow.
A benefits program's allegiance is based on constantly outdoing the competition. The best relationship's allegiance is based on... well... relationship. Relationship is not a competition.
A benefits program is focused on customer satisfaction so they don't lose business. The best relationships focus on long term health. This not a business and there are no contracts. We are connected because of our deep love.
A benefits program will always focus on the perks of their program and downplay the drawbacks. The best relationships will enter into the uncomfortable spaces of life because that is where growth happens.
God will sometimes not stop us from experiencing pain suffering. It is not because He is angry or vengful. This is how we grow. In our own childhood, we did not learn to ride a bike by allowing our parents to do all the work. We fell over and over until we learned not to fall anymore. It took time and some bruises. I wonder if God is like this sometimes. The only way we learn to deal with rejection is to be rejected. Then, He walks close beside us as we heal and learn to overcome. The goal is not perfection. The goal is growth and maturity.
When I think on this there is an immediate pushback. There is a spoiled side of me that doesn't like this image of God. I don't want God to treat me like a good parent. I want Him to treat me like a 'favorite aunt' who spoils me, buys me all the things, and never has a bad thing to say. However, I have watched those kids grow up and face the real world. They eventually struggle as the real world hits them in the face and they have no tools to manage the darkness around them. I've watched these kids eventually come to resent their family for not preparing them better. That may be what I want God to do, but He loves me too much to listen. God, because He loves me, will treat me like a Good Father. This means He will sometimes let me fall so that I can learn how to stand.