Much of the time, I love my life. I love sharing my story. I’ve seen God bring beauty from ashes, and I’ve affirmed that He is good. But there are times when the suppressed longing I have to be pursued and loved by someone who wants to marry me explodes inside of me, and all I can feel is neglected and cheated by a God who closely resembles the Grinch.
When I’m mentoring students, planning surprises for people I love, laughing with friends and busily immersed in work and service, I forget about this deep desire and I am full of thankfulness. But it’s in the moments of transition — when I’m living out of suitcases, when I’ve just seen five more birth announcements from my multitudes of married friends, when my circle of single friends gets smaller, when I realize again that I know a total of two single guys my age, when I realize my twenties are gone forever, when I read Browning’s love sonnets and, as my eyes brush over those beautiful words, realize there is no one in my heart — it is then that this unfulfilled desire slaps me in the face, and my heart breaks, not only because of this unfulfilled longing, but because of what it seems to prove.
God is not good like He claims. He is kind to many others, but He is mean and stingy with me. He rubs it in my face, and He blocks me from doing anything about it. If my singleness is an unwanted state, I’ve done every God-approved thing I can do to rectify this. The rest is His job, and He seems to be doing nothing. Stingy. Grinchy.
So I’m stuck here, and I’ve got this letter from God telling me that He is actually not the Grinch that He seems to be. It says He is a Giver, and it always points back to the gift of His Son to prove it (Romans 8:32). Problem is, I’ve had lots of tears-and-prayers sessions with Him over the years, where once again I’ve chosen to affirm His goodness in the face of His apparent stinginess, and now I’m tired of it. I’m tired of giving this Grinch a pass! All the platitudes that others may want to console me with fall on deaf ears, and my soul is raw because I feel like Cindy Lou Who face-to-face with the Grinch. Except I see the Grinch for who he is. Despite his promises, I know that he is really out to steal my Christmas.
Last week while I was simultaneously driving and raging at God, a line from a Christmas song on the radio caught my attention. Referring to the Wise Men who came from faraway to worship the baby King, the singer stated that their “expectation turned to mystery” when they discovered the appalling circumstances of the child’s birth. This was not the majesty that they had been expecting.
I started to think about the years of promises from God to His people — promises of a Savior who would crush the serpent’s head, who would sit on David’s throne, who would bring peace to all and be called Mighty God. These promises seemed confusingly unfulfilled by the birth of a baby in a smelly stable. Moreover, this child would grow up in an insignificant town, work as a carpenter for thirty years, and then be put to death by his own people. It wasn’t obvious that this Son was the greatest Gift from a good Giver. There was a lot of mystery.
Brennan Manning wrote, “God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability, and need. … The Bethlehem mystery will ever be a scandal to aspiring disciples who seek a triumphant Savior and a prosperity Gospel.” God’s gifts and withholdings do not always “make sense.” No one embraced Christ as the Son of God, the Promised Gift, without the aid of faith, which is birthed in the soul by the Holy Spirit.
Faith, the choice to embrace the mystery, is to trust what God says about His identity over what is seen and felt. But faith doesn’t come without a fight — a fight to embrace the mystery of a Giver who withholds or gives in strange ways. This Christmas season, I want to choose to fight the voices that scream God is a Grinch. I don’t understand what He is doing with my singleness and why He doesn’t give what I ask. But I choose to look at that confusing babe in the manger and call God a good Giver. Because there really is a Grinch who wants to steal my Christmas.
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