Americans shop. We like shopping. We compare. We seek something better. We dig and search looking for that item that satisfies us better than all the rest. We make our choice. We claim it. It is ours. And we are proud of our choice. We defend it and we brag about it. We like shopping. We are shoppers. So in love with choices are we that we will as consumers spend time reflecting on which scent we prefer for our liquid hand soap. “Last month I had Summer Strawberry. Maybe this month I should try Sun-Ripened Peach…or maybe Coastal Ocean Mist. Which would be better?” We are shoppers, and we like to choose.
Spiritually, Americans sometimes try to shop. We try to compare religions and search for one that satisfies us better than all the rest. We want to choose it as ours. We turn our spiritual lives into a shirt and we say this one just doesn’t fit me and I don’t at all like the style of that one. And so we try to choose our god according to our tastes. Some choose a god who gives liberty on moral questions but who is severe on prejudices and environmental issues. Some prefer the god who helps you when you are in a sliding car but who will keep his meddling hands off of your life on regular days. Some like a god who helps you communicate with animals. Some like a god who meets you when you are high on drugs. Others choose to have no god. They opt to not invest in any of the ‘choices’ set before them. They leave the mall with no bags whatsoever.
With all of the privileged choices we have as Americans, we now reject all ideas of Absolute Authority and believe we have somehow earned the right to choose our god and to decide what he is like. We are the greatest civilization ever, after all. We are now qualified to make decisions like these. No group of people has ever been more aware or more informed than we are. We are enlightened enough to realize that life is a big smorgasbord where you choose all you want and only what you want. No society has ever been this developed. No one has ever seen further or understood more than we do here today. Our thoughts are evolved. Our understanding has achieved new heights. We are as good as it gets.
Except, we are not. We are not as good as it gets. We are not good at all, in fact. Read a newspaper and see how ugly this amazing society can be. True, we are wealthy. True, we are sophisticated. But we are also vulgar and deceitful. And though America is a superpower in the eyes of other countries, we are certainly not qualified by our nature or our actions to go about deciding things concerning the God who made us all without our even knowing about it. When we do that, we fool ourselves. Arrogance and pride have led us to believe that we as simple players on the field somehow have the privilege of writing the rules of the game too. That is foolishness...and profoundly arrogant.
God is bigger than we are. We did not create Him. He is the Creator. Turning that simple truth upside down has led us to believe we can ‘shop’ for a god of our choice. But before democracy, before separation of church and state, before equal rights, and before freedom of religion God was who He was. (Exodus 3:14) God is older than humanism. God is older than New Age. God is older than Islam and Christianity both. God has always been and will always be God. No matter how high man’s thoughts are, they are small before His. We are creatures. He is Creator.
Living for twenty years in a rural Haitian community has been an enlightening experience for me as an American raised in supermarkets and malls. Life is hard in rural Haiti. The people have no investment plans to choose from for tomorrow. They have no insurance or social security. They have no real security of any kind. They have no medical services to speak of. They live at the mercy of nature in tiny shelters we would use to store our lawn mower. They live on the verge of having nothing at all. They spend days existing with no resources. They are powerless in many areas. Their choices are few. They are the opposite of Americans in so many ways. But I have witnessed their sincere trust in God, and I have seen evidence of how much God loves them and works in their lives. God is real. So many of the ‘things’ we have as Americans are really just arrogant attempts to do God’s work for Him. But God is our True Security. God is our True Insurance. He is our True Shelter. He is our Wealth.
My time in Haiti has taught me to trust God for who He is - - who He says He is in His Word. We cannot erase Him. We cannot even change Him. He is the never-changing, all-knowing, ever-present, omnipotent Creator of everything that is. I am nothing compared to Him. He is almighty. He is just. He is love. He is perfect. My position is to bow before Him and allow Him to do what He has already chosen to do with me. He is my God.
He is my God, but it is not I who chose Him. He chose me. He chose all of us when He sent His Son to this earth to resolve our sin problem for us. (John 3:16) God’s Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross is the greatest love of all. We were already alienated from God because of our sin when He chose you and me. He chose to send His Son to die and be alienated in our place. It was love for us that held Christ on the cross, not the nails. He did all of that for you and me. Today He is alive again, and offers us salvation. When we recognize His offer and come to Him, we do not even do that on our own. It is He who calls to each of us. He longs for us. He reaches out for us all. The distance between God and myself is there by my choice, not by His.
And so for these 20 years I have laughed, fought, played, cried, and prayed with the people of Passe-bois-d'orme. In all of these experiences, we have seen and felt God’s hand working among us. He has directed our lives. He chooses our circumstances. He leads us closer to Himself. No matter where we come from, God yearns to lead us all closer to Him.
If you have never allowed God to be your God, I urge you to do it. Trusting Him will be the best decision you ever make. He is worthy of all of your trust. His plan for your life is a beautiful one. He will hold your hand as He leads you through valleys and across mountains. Whatever path He chooses, may you walk the path with His hand in your hand. Don’t walk a day on your own. Walking with God is the only way to truly live. God is good.
God really is up there - - reigning, active King of this universe.
But to see Him, we must forsake all arrogance and bow. Choose to bow.