I Love God Like My Wife Loves Frogs… From a Distance

Source: Wikimedia Commons, Image by Harmen Piekema

My wife Lauren makes me laugh out loud nearly every day.  She is amazing!  One thing that I find humorous is her fear of frogs… or should I say her love for frogs? Honestly, I’m not quite sure what description describes the situation.

About six months ago, Lauren downloaded an iPhone app called Sleep Maker.  I hate it, she loves it!  Basically, if you enjoy falling asleep under the intoxicating sounds of nature, this app is for you.  Melodic sounds of creeks flowing, crickets chirping, thunder roaring, birds harmonizing, waves crashing… and yes, you guessed it – frogs croaking.  For a month straight, we listened to the setting titled “medium frogs near brook.” Of course, she always falls asleep within 5 minutes of hitting the pillow, while I get to enjoy the full 45-minute duration of croak-age!   Seriously, they should change the name of this app to “Sleep Stopper!”

We currently live in a housing development with an irrigation canal that passes through the neighborhood.  I’m pretty sure that more frogs live in this man-made creek than humans in the whole sub-division.  It makes me wonder if the plague of frogs in Egypt under Moses could even compare to our population of Kermit’s cousins.

When we take our dogs out for an evening walk, the croaking sound is wonderful.  As long as this sound isn’t disrupting my slumber, I enjoy it quite a bit.  For Lauren, it might qualify as one of her favorite sounds on the planet.  She loves frogs from a distance.

But then there’s the other side of my lovely wife’s disposition towards these green wart covered amphibians.  When it gets dark enough, she is terrified that a frog might jump out in front of her.  This fear is somewhat justified as many of the frogs venture into the neighborhood to help cut down our insect population.  The thing that brings her near the point of trepidation involves the possibility of stepping on a frog, which results in two negative results: 1) such a frog would lose its life, 2) said frog would make a “squishy noise” under her feet.

To summarize: Lauren loves frogs from a distance, but fears close contact.

The more I think about my wife’s love and fear of frogs, the more I’m reminded of my life with God.  From a distance:

  • I sing songs about God.
  • I study the Scriptures.
  • I listen to dynamic sermon podcasts as I commute 40 minutes to seminary.
  • I have deep theological conversations in coffee shops about the mysteries of the Creator.
  • I prepare sermons.
  • I read books about the way of Jesus.

In all these things, I attempt to engage God from a distance.  I deceive myself into believing that these activities are guaranteed to lead me into closeness with Jesus. Sometimes they do, but more often than not, God feels far away.  I think that I’m actually afraid of what it would cost to take my spiritual life to the next level.

I fear that close contact might mean self-sacrifice beyond the simple luxuries I might be willing to give up as a privileged American.  If I get too close:

  • I might lose my comfort.
  • I might have to serve more.
  • I might need to give my life fully to others.
  • I might feel compelled to live in authentic and intrusive community.
  • I might find myself in situations with people I’d rather not spend quality time with, because as much as I may abstractly believe that I’m called to love those in the margins, this takes work.
  • I might even find myself in situations where turning the cheek is a literal demand!

If I am completely honest, most of the time I love God from a distance.

But there’s something more beautiful in this picture. All of the things I fear about getting close to God are the very kinds of things that Jesus did perfectly during his life!  Whereas my tendency is to love God from a distance rather than up close, the pattern of Christ works in the opposite direction. Consider these familiar words from John’s gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made….  14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  John 1.1-3, 14

And then these words from the Apostle Paul:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! Philippians 2.5-8

Jesus doesn’t love us from a distance; he loves us by drawing near.

So, when we feel like our relationship with God is at arms length, may we remember that his arms spread wide open to embrace us all. When we feel guilty for the expanse between our lives and the life of God, may we be encouraged that the resurrected Christ invaded earth from the throne of heaven to eliminate all relational chasms between the Divine and us. And just as frogs may be wonderful from afar but scary up close, may we begin to realize that God comes close to us to cast away our fear. May God’s nearness to us empower our lives to bring Jesus near to those for whom God seems distant.

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  • Revnancyfitzgerald

    Thank you for these thoughts that resonate with my feelings.

  • Taylor

    Thanks Kurt.  This morning I had written this in my journal:

    Struggling some personally.  Realizing that I purposefully don’t seek God’s presence in my life.  It’s admittedly easier to do life without God.  He has a way of messing things up.  Obviously, living without God, while easier, is still no way to truly live.
     

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @2a8ca21465748ec0b557bb29c079c7f4:disqus … amazing when God connects people’s real situations to an article on the blog.  May you be encouraged this morning!

  • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

    Me, too, Kurt!  Another thing that I, personally, struggle with is confessing my sins to God.  I mean actually saying, “I have an anger problem” out loud.  Mostly it’s because I want God to think that I’m more in control that I really am.

  • Ol

    Kurt, a fantastic blog and something that really hit home with me. Currently I have been in quite a roller coaster with God. Backing away keeping him at arms length resisting the change he wants to put to me. but everyday I am getting that bit closer, it’s scary but in an exciting type way. Thanks for writing this, I really enjoy your blogs. 

  • http://www.PathwaysInternational.org Miguel

    Excellent post.  Couldn’t help but think of Bette Midler’s song, “From a distance,” where she sings:

    And God is watching us, God is watching us, 
    God is watching us from a distance. 
    Oh, God is watching us, God is watching. 
    God is watching us from a distance 

    Of course, it’s bad theology and bad ideology.  Life is lived in proximity.  After all, Jesus came and dwelt among us.  We likewise, must dwell in the midst of others.  We abide in Him, closely clustered at time inconvenienced by others taking up “our space.”

    Blessings

    I am reposting this to the Making Disciple fb page.

    https://www.facebook.com/Disciple.Making

  • http://www.facebook.com/linnybest Linny Best

    Well said…”…may we begin to realize that God comes close to us to cast away our fear. May God’s nearness to us empower our lives to bring Jesus near to those for whom God seems distant.” I’m looking at the possibility of something scary in my life, but knowing that God is bigger than my fears gives me the strength and faith to face it head on.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @facebook-226601479:disqus … Lauren and I are so excited to see you and Dale tomorrow night! Its been too long and we need to get back into the rhythm of doing life together.  Thanks for your comment friend.

  • Travis

    Kurt – thanks for this post.  I came across it from a friends Facebook page.  

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @fcc5fb68475daa0d222375e65be16ea3:disqus … I hope you will stay connected and feel free to add me on FB!  Glad you liked it!

  • http://michaeldouglasjohnson.com/ Michael

    THAT was an honest and awesome post! Thanks for the reminder!

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    Very intriguing comment, Kurt!  But just to be a little contrarian, there is a third point of view on your list of sacrifices…and that’s the fear of doing one or more of those things, experiencing all the discomfort associated with it/them, but never having it balanced with the reward of closeness to God.  Personally, I hate the idea of going through a truly unpleasant exercise that others swear brings them “closer to God,” only to wind up with all pain and no gain!

    Of course, the reality (I rather suspect) is that these things don’t actually bring anyone closer to God, but that for some at least, closeness to God results in an upwelling of such sacrifice, not as a discipline but as a result.  In fact I would go so far as to suggest that maybe we can’t actually bring ourselves closer to God–either by the first OR second list, but rather are dependent on his deciding to reveal himself to us…or not…as/when he chooses.  (I know, sounds almost Calvinist of me, eh?)

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @dwmtractor:disqus … good thoughts as always.  I think that in some ways your point is mine as well.  God is not distant… he is close.  He invades our space.  He comes to us from heaven to earth.  I think that sometimes we are not awakened to his closeness that was available the whole time.  This is not a touchy feely thing only, but a realization that relationship with God is possible… whatever that looks like for the DNA of a particular person.

  • Anonymous

    Loved what you wrote, Kurt; your honesty is really refreshing!  

    Can I add a p.s. to the frog story? 

    I love frogs, what is more: I’m blessed to have no froggy-phobia and like nothing better than to get up close and personal (if they’ll let me!) When meeting a frog there’s no ‘hidden agenda’. I’m not drawing closer because I want to prove something to myself, or to take a macro photo, or legitimately say “I was close to a frog”, or even help others see how nice frogs are. I do it for the pure-and-simple joy of meeting that frog.

    I think there may be a parallel with our intimacy with God… 

    Of course, one MASSIVE difference is that God Himself  (for some mind-bloggling reason we simply cannot fathom) wants this intimacy with us more than we can possibly imagine.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @AnnvW:disqus … wonderful thoughts and frog story :-)

  • http://kerrysheadybrew.blogspot.com Kerry Miller-Whalen

    Thank you for posting this.  I’ve been struggling with a bunch of theological stuff – and while it does matter, I have had a nagging feeling all week that I’m close to missing the whole point and making it all “about” God, rather than “with” Him.  Blessings to you! 

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @18fc507b7ad2192fff094311e2d9de29:disqus … glad this blessed you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000699994198 David Reynolds

    I worry that I’ll be called to something like Francis of Assisi. I am by Earth’s standards pretty wealthy. What if God asks me to put it all down to follow him.
    On the other hand I worry that I will NOT be called to something like Francis of Assisi and totally miss my best destiny. There were lots of rich men from that time who are lost in the oblivion of history, history remembers with fondness a guy who took gave it all away for God. Lord have mercy on me.
    Loving the blog by the way.

  • Charlie

    Thanks, Kurt, this brings to mind Brother Lawrence’s work on Practicing The Presence of God.  All the possible ‘consequences’ of ‘getting too close’ are indeed real, but when getting past the reluctance and to the experience, they are more blessings than consequences.   Thanks again!

  • http://strawberryroan.blogspot.com Shanyn Mystic

    I love this post!  Firstly – I love frogs too! We have many here at our ranch, toads too. They are noisy sometimes and you do have to watch where you walk. We are a bit more hands on though! Secondly, this post is right on.  What a blessing to know God is right there! He loves us intimately and closely, even when we like the comfort of loving Him from a distance.  His love draws us in and blesses us.  Bright blessings, Shanyn (Strawberry Roan)


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