I felt like a frustrated two year old held by her father, wailing and beating my little fists against his ribs. “Where were you, God? I got up early, showed up for the retreat day and didn’t find you there. At the end of the day everyone else had their stories of how you had met them, cozy feelings of being loved. I had nothing. At least before I had the anticipation of meeting with you. Now I have just disappointment. Aloneness. Why didn’t you meet me?” Bang, bang, bang, my fists against the chest of God. Squirming and wriggling and crying out, “This is not okay, God. I can’t manage life without you. Where are you?”
And then I worried. I know God wants us to be honest with him, but maybe this is too honest. Is it okay to have a temper tantrum with God? I mean, He’s God. The Ruler of the universe. The All-Powerful One who deserves total respect. He has every right not to show up. If it wasn’t for Him saying that he loves me, showing that he wants me near, it would be ridiculous to dream that He might ever condescend to meet with little ol’ me, let alone show up according to my schedule.
Is it okay to have a temper tantrum with God? I don’t know.
Many of us enjoy other people’s children when they’re happy and fed, and prefer to hand them back to their parents when they’re tired and hungry and don’t know what to do with themselves. God calls us to come “as children.” And he calls us to come hungry and tired and sick. Not to try to fix things first. Not to swallow hard and cover up our longings. Just to come. Come as a child who doesn’t stop to think about how to come. Needy. Honest. Even wailing and flailing.
And I know this. God is Truth. He doesn’t deal in half-truths and hiddenness. He brings it all out in the open where He can heal it. A two-year-old’s tantrum may not be a mark of intimacy in our communication with God. But that kind of honesty is. And we’re not alone in crying out in this way (eg Job, Psalm 73:21-23, Psalm 13). The first step in healing is always being honest about the situation. Often we can’t hear God’s heartbeat until we realize how desperately we need to.
This I know too. God understands longing for intimacy. He understands the pain of rejection, the piercing disappointment of showing up to find the other party not there.
“I’ve made myself available
to those who haven’t bothered to ask.
I’m here, ready to be found
by those who haven’t bothered to look.
I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’
to a nation that ignored me.
I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me . . .
(Isaiah 65:1-2 The Message)
Maybe God doesn’t mind my fists against his chest. Maybe his Father-heart, calling “come, come, come,” feels only compassion, not the condemnation I fear. Maybe he even hears my longing for his presence as a tiny echo of his God-sized passion for all to be united with him. His arms are safe, a strong and steady place to feel the painful longing for oneness and let the tears come.
One thing more I know. God would rather have me beating on his chest than turning away and crying alone. His patient heart and strong arms gently wait, letting me exhaust myself against him, ready to quiet me until I can rest again in his love.
Who knows? Maybe, more often than we suspect, childlike fists beating on the breast of God are a way deeper into the heart of God.
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”
(Matthew 19:14, New Living Translation)