Recently, during some quiet prayer time, I received a “God smack.” (Probably not the technical term for this phenomenon, but it seems really applicable in this particular situation.) I’m not talking about a light cuff to the ear, I mean a swift crack across the cheek—think Cher’s gutsy wallop unleashed on an unsuspecting Nicolas Cage in the 1980’s classic, Moonstruck. Thwack! “Snap out of it!” said with an impatient New York accent. It’s the kind of divine blow that leaves your skin stinging and your mind reeling. And there’s no denying it makes you stand at attention. I don’t mean to suggest that God, who is all goodness Himself, would resort to violence, but that my realization, most likely prompted by Him, resulted in a physical jolt. God had certainly caught my attention.
I’d been feeling a bit melancholy over the past several days. And after I had run through my extra-long litany of prayer requests, I unburdened my heavy heart. “Lord, lately everyone seems to be contacting me only because they need something. It’s as if they don’t want to be with me as much as they just want something from me. Why don’t people reach out to me just to say hi and see how I’m doing? I’m feeling like a glorified ATM. Just type in the code and—Oh yeah, I forgot to ask you to help Max. I need to add him to my prayer requests. He’s sick with a crummy virus, Lord. Please heal him—”
As I nonchalantly tried to toss in one more ask from my mile-long list…I became convicted. Thwack! Cue Cher. “Snap out of it!” I had been treating God in the same manner in which I felt I had been maligned by friends and family. As if He, God almighty, was the big sugar daddy in the sky, my heavenly ATM to visit when I needed something. Punch in the code and wait, preferably not too long though. I sat and let the irony absorb into every pore as I was overcome with contrition and wonder. How had this not occurred to me sooner? Before this moment when I was in the depths of my little pity party brooding about how awful everyone else is, it never dawned on me that God had recently been receiving the exact treatment from me. “Not me,” I vainly pleaded. I reached out to people because I cared. Right? I took the time to know and love them and ask them how they are. I didn’t see others as a means to an end. My track record with people lately (the last 3 hours) has been stellar, but what about with God? Of late, I’d been treating the creator of the universe marginally, a mere means to an end. And in the quiet, God had made it known to me. He made it clear that he craves real intimacy with me, not just a relationship of convenience. We’d been in a good place before, but at this juncture, He was calling me to turn back and reevaluate His role in my life.
This little prayer lightning bolt got me to thinking. Maybe many of our concerns and gripes about others are precisely how God feels about us. If I’m experiencing impatience with my kids, maybe God feels the same way about me. I’m hurt because I haven’t heard from a friend in a really long time. Does this reflect God’s longing to hear from me? In pondering these questions, a story popped into my head. Several years ago, I had been visiting family in the city where I grew up. An elderly uncle accompanied me to the cemetery so I could visit my parents’ graves. On the way, I asked him, out of sheer curiosity, why he didn’t go to church anymore. While my parents were firm in their faith, much of the rest of my extended family had faded into mere cultural Catholicism. Most didn’t even attend mass. I wondered how that had happened to him in particular. “I can’t go to church. It’s been too long. What are they going to say to me? I’ve lived my life and I love God. I don’t need to go to church to love God. He knows that. I can’t go there.” I didn’t agree at all so I just nodded and kept driving. As we admired the scenic views, the conversation shifted to his sons. They are both avid golfers. My uncle lives across from a golf course that his sons frequent which is a source of emotional pain for him. Because they do not visit. “Do you think they’d as much as drive up and honk in the parking lot? They’re across the street golfing every day and they can’t even stop in to see their 80-year-old father? After all I did for them. They don’t even want to come and see me. I don’t know what I did to deserve these sons.” Silence.
“But Uncle Sam, you realize that’s exactly how God feels about you? He’s wondering why you, His son, pass church all the time and never stop in to see Him. He wants to see you and hear from you. He’s there—in the tabernacle, just waiting.” While I’d like to say this poetic Holy Spirit-inspired moment created a St. Paul-like conversion, it didn’t. No scales fell off at that moment. But as I reconsider the story with the perspective of time, I realize this was not just about my uncle and his relationship with God. There’s a take away for all of us. Our relationships with those around us often mirror our own relationship with the Lord. If you can’t stand your husband, or mother or best friend right now, what does that say about your intimacy with God? If we feel like we’re surrounded by self-serving co-workers, could it be that God has something to offer us on that front which requires some intellectually honest introspection? I’m beginning to understand, He is the compass by which all else is guided. When we seek to improve our communication and friendship with God it will spill over to the rest of our lives. When we have issues with others we can often seek those answers in relation to our prayer life and our communion with Christ and His Church. But sometimes, we just aren’t ready for those answers. A word of warning though, when you’re least suspecting you may be due for a “God Smack.” THWACK!