Lying in bed one night, I picked up a “feel-good” Christian devotional.
“I am ever so near you, hovering over your shoulder . . .”
For some reason, I literally looked over my shoulder. What I found, may surprise you.
A tiny, barely moving speck caught my eye – a bed bug!
Now, I won’t bore you with my long history of infestations and attempted exterminations, but let’s just say, I was not pleased.
I tore apart my bed searching for more tiny specks, praying that history wouldn’t repeat itself. Not finding any additional bed bugs, I untensed my shoulders. Then, I began journaling.
My Fear of Anxiety
My whole life is built around fear. This includes my relationship with God. He is first and foremost a helper, especially when it comes to shielding me from fearful thoughts. If I feel I haven’t prayed enough, I feel negligent – like I’ve skipped breakfast. Can’t I take care of myself? Praying itself is a fearful process because I’ve made the stakes so high. If I don’t pray enough, I will experience even more anxiety and everyone will see it.
Praying for God to take away my anxious thoughts works about 10% of the time, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. How can I sit here and do nothing about the fact that I’m distressed? I have to fix it, so I call up my Holy Handyman.
When God doesn’t soothe my anxiety within my desired timeframe, I become impatient. Why isn’t he numbing my mind already and giving me visions of skipping through a meadow with kittens?
So I devise my own strategies of thought suppression.
Why I View God as a Handyman
You’ve probably heard it before, but let me tell you something I find really eerie – our relationship with our earthly father often informs our view of God. To understand my view of God, you must first understand my relationship with my dad.
My dad is one of the hardest-working people I know. Growing up, I could depend on him for almost anything that involved a screw, a wrench or a hammer. Not much of a conversationalist, my dad lent a hand without lending an ear for me to share about my life. Today, when I want to spend time with my dad, it isn’t “let’s do lunch,” it’s “let me fix this issue in your condo.”
I am very thankful to have had such a skilled and caring father. Despite the lack of emotional intimacy, I fully accept him for who he is, and do not expect him to change. However, for psychological purposes, it’s been helpful to understand this relationship. I believe my relationship with my dad has impacted the way I relate to others, and more importantly, the way I relate to God.
Why Won’t God Fix My Plumbing?
Contrary to popular belief, God doesn’t expect us to suppress negative emotions and be happy all the time. I believe he wants us to accept our emotions instead of trying to arm wrestle them. Sure, it works sometimes, but then I mistake myself for a pro-wrestler and forget my need for God.
A true need for God isn’t the same kind of need as a need for a handyman. Needing God means I need his love and companionship in order to experience life’s struggles with a sense of hope that there’s something better – something unseen that is here now and something visible that will come at life’s end.
God is Right Over My Shoulder
Yes, I know it was a bed bug I saw, but where fear is, God is also. A handyman will fix your problem, and fly out the door. God, on the other hand, lingers and converses with you while fixing that which is eternal and unseen. While the visible world is flooding your basement with sewage, the invisible God is embracing you and reminding you of the one thing that really matters.
What if I stopped arm wrestling and started accepting this “fixer-upper” of a brain and body I inhabit? Maybe then I can move beyond a one-dimensional relationship with God and experience the sweetness of having an intimate companion in times of distress.
(A Note on Christian Devotionals: I’m not hatin’ on devotionals. However, I think it has potential to narrow one’s view of God, if not balanced with studying scripture in context. God has many characteristics, just as people have many characteristics.)