If I had to describe myself in three words, I would pick loyal, dedicated and consistent.
So, no surprise here – along the lines of our greatest strengths becoming our greatest weaknesses, I am not great at being flexible, spontaneous and unstructured. I always used to dread the first day of school, because (as an anti-procrastinator) I wanted to get everything done as soon as possible and was overwhelmed by the syllabus. The only thing that would calm me down was deliberately placing all of the due dates on my academic planner and then finishing everything ahead of time. I still have dreams that I somehow missed taking a science class and cannot graduate on time. I hate being late; in fact, I’d rather be absent than arrive late (partially because I hate not to be on time, but also because I cringe just thinking about everyone looking at me as I walk into the room late). Yet, even with my preference for routine and regiment, my favorite date of all-time involved being woken up in the middle of the night to do some impromptu star gazing from a rooftop after a midnight junk food run.
Maybe you’ve heard the cliché about the only thing we can count on with God is the unexpected. Perhaps it is cliché, but I find it to be true. Even though I have approached the biggest decisions in my life with consistent, loyal prayer, my recognition of the Divine has always come in surprise (and sometimes shock). In fact, I most often recognize God in my life when there is no way I would have arrived at a particular decision, destination or endeavor on my own. The God I know is spontaneous, surprising and unexpected.
Sure, Scripture tells us that “the steadfast of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 136), and that God is dependable like an unmovable rock, fortress and stronghold (2 Samuel 22). I don’t debate that some of my loyalty, dedication and consistency come from God — those too are God-like qualities. It’s just that I don’t typically long for that God. I long for the God I am not. I desire for God to show me all that is outside of who I am. I want the spontaneity and flexibility of God. I want the unexpected. I want more than who I am and who I can be.
Perhaps this is the romantic premise of opposites attract — the idea that we desire in the other that which we are not. We find the opposite personality exciting or stabilizing, freeing or secure, uplifting or comforting. Perhaps there is a piece of all of us that longs for the God we are not — the God who makes us wonder, question, push, break down, overcome rework, create, challenge and truly live.
We probably all have a narcissistic (or at least selfish) tendency to think of God as at least a little like us. But Scripture tells us that it is the other way around. We are like God. We were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We are not God, but on our best days we reflect (in some small way) some of who God is. It is humbling for me to realize that the God I most often see – in others, in nature, in answers to prayers, in Scripture – is almost always not like me, or I should say, I am unlike that God. The God that stands out to me, the God who calls out to me, is the One that looks unlike me, yet I am strangely able to recognize this God. And what a relief it is to worship, to serve, to love the God that I am (and we are) not.
JULIE RAFFETY serves as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, New Jersey. Julie is a violinist, aspiring writer, snowboarder, runner, identical twin and crazy about popcorn.