Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stiff-Arming God

If you love football, there's nothing like a good stiff-arm. It is all about creating space and distance from your opponent. As a 29-year-old who still has dreams about my high school football days, I can vividly remember being on both sides of the stiff-arm. As the giver--it's thrilling. As the taker--it's humiliating. But it's one thing to blog about stiff-arming linebackers and safeties. It's another write to talk about stiff-arming God.

But we do it.
Remember, stiff-arms are all about creating distance, space, and separation, and we often do this with God...sometimes intentionally...sometimes subtly. I might not be too far off in saying that keeping God at a distance is where we like to hang out and camp.

What so much of spirituality boils down to is this--what are your expectations of God?
High expectations--means you live with the faith that God is very much involved in every day affairs and that He is eager to intervene and intercede in this present world.
Low expectations--means that you believe that God will take care of everything in the end, but that he's not concerned about interceding in every day affairs. One day, he'll make the world right.

Here's the kicker, if you choose to live with high expectations of God, moments will present themselves when you will feel like God has let you down... he has made a wrong turn... he has turned a deaf ear... he has been silent and still.

So, let me give a little advice IF you want to save yourself from ever feeling like God has let you with low expectations of God. Expect him to make things better in the end. But don't expect divine intervention in day-to-day life.

Many people call this "deism". It supposes that God has a plan for the universe, but that divine intervention isn't on his radar or agenda. For years, I thought that deists were crazy. After February of 2010, I've come to see that many times people become deists (even though many people wouldn't admit it) in order to protect God. Some things happen in life, and there's no way to describe it, but that God has his hands off but one day he'll set the world straight.

But, if you choose to live with high expectations of a God who is still eager to participate in a world in which he is deeply concerned about day-to-day life, then know this, there will come moments when we'll be forced to ask, "At what length do I want to keep God?" Because ultimately, the stiff-arm will inevitably become a form of idolatry, which is where many of us are in our prayer lives, because we use God for our purposes, plans, and agendas. And if we keep God at a distance, we can free ourselves from ever feeling like God could let us down again.

Call my faith small if you want, but today it is with hesitation that I choose to live with high expectations, and I have faith that God can do something with that.

What about you, do you have much experience in trying to keep God at a distance? Do you struggle to live with high expectations of God?


  1. Great creative post Josh. I love you connecting the stiff arm to Deism. I think that our protecting God bears a lot of the responsibility for the poor theologies we have constructed, thanks for making this personal brother!

  2. Jonathan, you're absolutely right.
    Your faith inspires me!

  3. After Jenny's death, I felt myself spiraling toward Deism. Yet it left me with as many questions as when I had high expectations.

    I am now living with "being content with the mystery." It doesn't come easily for someone who was raised in an environment where everything is black and white. I can't tell you how many times a day I pray, "Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief." Or, "Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life."

  4. My stiff-arming had more to do with my problems than God's. I kept him away because I didn't feel worthy to be in His presence and I didn't want to have to be open about the things I was hiding. I don't know if I was protecting God from me or thinking I could protect myself from God.

    While our thoughts of stiff-arming God may have come from different situations, I believe I share in your high expectations of God today because I see how he has used my pain to help someone else. I see God fully engaged in my life as long as I am allowing Him to be fully engaged, in this present moment. My expectations are higher than ever for God even while I cannot understand why things have worked out the way they have. It doesn't make sense to me but God isn't in to making sense, He is in to making peace and redemption and reconciliation and salvation.

    My expectations are high but so are my fears, fear of what I might have to experience for God to do greater things than I can imagine. Still, I want to see His majesty in this lifetime as I prepare to see His glory in the life to come.

  5. No one is calling your faith small, Josh, but I think it's important to realize that there are many different approaches to Christian thought, and that those who do not to believe in miraculous occurrences consider themselves just as close to God as you do.