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New light on "God" for the New Year

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Due to my roles as chaplain and pastor I have many opportunities to speak with people about their experience of God. Some will say, "I don't believe in God!" Often my response is, "Tell me about the god you don't believe in."

Invariably they tell me their personal saga of a god who was aloof and uncaring during a time in their life in which they were going through significant personal suffering. They tell a story of an absent god who let them down. Their story is laden with disappointment, disillusionment, and profound personal hurts. After taking time to hear them out, I often respond with, "I don't believe in that god either!" However, I do believe in the God who has revealed Himself to be a God of love, compassion, and hope.

The living and true God of the universe seeks us out with His love, which when experienced, sets us free and makes us whole. Many people down through the years have embraced mere characterizations of God which distort their perception and impede their search for God and the meaning and purpose in life that He can bring. For example, I've known many who see God as angry and quick to punish. They go through life dodging lightning bolts, figuratively speaking. Maybe early on they heard a lot of "hell, fire and brimstone" messages and, consequently, have had trouble drawing near to God. Guilt feelings encroach on the love which they could be experiencing in their relationship with God. I encourage them to see God in a new light.

I share this story from my personal life. We were beginning our family while I was ministering in Tucson during the early 1980s. Our first born was a beautiful little girl named Abby. Abby went through the normal stages of child development of rolling and crawling, and we knew it wouldn't be long before she took her first steps. The memorable day arrived. She was crawling on the living room carpet and made her way over to the couch. She pulled herself up. We were on the edge of our seats. She started out across the living room walking on her own. How exciting! Her first steps! And then what happened? She fell down. Now, do you think that I, her father, walked over to her, picked her up, spanked her severely, and harshly admonished her, "Shame on you, Abby, for falling down!" Of course not! I love Abby and I was excited for this milestone in her life. Instead, as we clapped and cheered with big smiles I said, "Good for you, Abby, now get up and try again." We were pleased that she was learning to walk, and we knew that falling was part of the learning process.

As our heavenly Father, God is like that too. He is not quick to punish. He cheers us on. He is pleased when we try to learn to walk with Him in our lives. When we desire to experience God and are open to life's experiences that enable us to trust the faithfulness and steadfast love of God, God meets us where we are and reveals more of Himself to us. An experiential knowledge of God makes it possible for us to thrive and make the most of our living upon the earth.

Back to Abby. She now runs marathons. She will turn 30 years old in the new year. She's married to a wonderful, loving husband, and they joyfully encourage three great children: Kyra, Myles, and Hayley. From her humble beginnings learning to walk, now Abby does quite well. Life is like that. Learning to walk with God opens new possibilities, and before we know it we're running with God.

Opportunities for Spiritual Growth & Fitness
Jewish Awareness Group , Saturday, Jan. 10, 9:30 a.m. in the Chaplain's Office
Protestant Worship Service, Saturday, Jan 10, noon in Ops Classroom F
Catholic Mass, Sunday, Jan. 11, 8 a.m. in Ops Classroom E
LDS Study Group, Sunday, Jan. 11, noon in Ops Classroom F
Buddhist (SGI) contact Lt. Col. Dan Summers.