Would it not be better to be dead than to have this horrible fear that Aslan has come and is not like the Aslan we have believed in and longed for? It is as if the sun rose one day and were a black sun. - King Tirian, The Last Battle
Few things are as painful as the discovery that God is not who we had once believed Him to be. Somewhere along the way we find that whatever It was that helped us find lost keys or comforted us when lonely is not who God really is. The God whom all our prior experience had taught us we would never be forsaken, ends up letting us down at the exact moment when everything else has as well. The God we read about in the scriptures, the Wise Grandfather, the Hope of the Helpless, turns out to be just as unreal as every other childhood hero.
On Moriah, Abraham found God not to be someone with endless promises, but someone prepared to take everything he had. In the garden and on the cross, Jesus found His Ever Present Friend strangely absent, at the moment of greatest need. I have watched many of the people closest to me go through similar experiences. I have seen their anguish, their tears and their pain as they have come to discover the God in whom they once testified and the Church they once loved, become nothing more than smoke and mirrors--an elaborate illusion that collapses during the time when it was most relied. It is too long and hard a road to Oz to find the truth finally at the last scene.
I look back on my life and remember the times I felt closest to Him. I remember:
- Receiving the missionary lessons, kneeling in prayer, asking in faith and receiving more than I could believe
- Listening to my first conference session and hearing for the first time the words of a prophet of God
- Waking up at 6:00am every morning for seminary ready to feast upon the scriptures
- Opening the Book of Mormon and reading words that were written just for me
- Stumbling on the words as I blessed the sacrament for the first time
- Kneeling in prayer in a bathroom stall in my dorm--promising God my whole heart
- Nervously Humbly placing my hands on her head, trying to muster the faith to speak God's words
- Riding my bike in torrential rain, on fire with the gospel, so happy to be sharing our Heavenly Father’s love
- Wanting nothing more than to be like Jesus
- Following the Spirit to bless people’s lives
- Believing there was nothing greater in life than obedience, sacrifice and charity
I have the memories but have forgotten the feelings. I remember Him, but no longer feel the love toward Him I once did.
The God who I then believed in (and followed and promised and prayed to) is infinitely different than the God with whom hard experience has acquainted me. A God who stands ready to crush my heart and steal my dreams; who is often so distant that my memory is made foolish; who promises agency and freedom, but leaves me no choice but to surrender.