Mannoia Lecture Series: God of Ragged Edges

Written by Jessie Polley. Media by Shannon Geary.

What’s worse?  Telling God you don’t believe in him, or telling him he is deceiving you?  … What do you do when dreams and expectations are smashed again and again? … What do you think about a God who lets events such as the bombing of Hiroshima, the Rwanda genocide, and the Holocaust happen?”   These were some of the questions Dr.  Richard Middleton asked during his chapel address on February 12.

Dr. Middleton speaking at the colloquium in Snyder 104.
Photo by Shannon Geary.

In Jeremiah 20:7-18 (NIV), Jeremiah is lamenting to God, “You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed.”  In XTC’s song “Dear God,” they sing of how they can’t believe in God due to different circumstances in life.  What is common about both of these pieces is they are both prayers.  Looking back at Dr.  Middleton’s first question of “What’s worse?”  He tells us that neither prayer is worse.  In fact, the blatant honesty in these two prayers is something we all–as Christians–should try.  Honesty is essential in any relationship, so why no be honest with God?

“When we have the audacity to take pain, hurt, sadness, and doubt to God, something remarkable happens.  He comes.”  Middleton explained.  We serve a God who meets us where we are.  A god who is good, in charge, and has a purpose for each of our lives.  We need to “be honest about our pain, and think of God,”  Middleton said.

Photo by Shannon Geary.

Jeremiah was lamenting to God.  Dr.  Middleton helps us to understand what lamenting is and says, “it’s the hinge between bondage and deliverance.” 

Lamenting is redemptive, and it is hard.  Giving thanks is easy (and sometimes forced), but opening up and being gut level honest with God is difficult.  We want to come across as “perfect” Christians.  We think we have to have it all together (or seem like we do), be clean and flawless.  We don‘t want to have ragged edges.  We don’t want to be in pain or show our hurt, we have to be strong.  But God doesn’t show up when we have it all together, or wait until we have our edges all smoothed out.  God is with us in our pain.

So what do we do when bad things happen?  Do we blame God, ourselves, or someone else?  When we look at certain Christians we think as “holier than ourselves,” what do we do when they don’t meet our expectations?  In all times, the good and the bad, we need to be rooted in hope.  As Dr.  Middleton stated, “Not just in God’s promise, but that God might share in our pain.”  We need to remember that no one has it all together.  No one has perfectly smooth edges.  We are all broken, hurt, sad, and completely ragged.  But rest in the fact that God is a god of ragged edges.


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