Through the years of struggling to believe in God, I’ve come to understand God not as omniscient, not as all loving, not even as a provider. I’ve learned that God is, most often, a disinterested carrot dangler.
You know the image, and the story. How do you keep a horse moving forward? Tie a carrot to a stick, dangle the carrot just a foot or two in front of the horse so she believes she’ll arrive at the reward. The horse is ignorant, believes her master, and continues toward the carrot. The master, concerned only with keeping the horse moving forward toward his own desires, just keeps holding the carrot in place. And the carrot, well, it just hangs there.
This image has been an important metaphor for me lately. God, life, the universe…whatever, dangles potentiality inches away from my forehead. So close that, if I could stand for a brief moment, I could grasp it. Close enough to see how amazing the carrot is, how earthy it smells and how good it would taste. And me, always marching forward, ignorantly believing that I’ll one day wrap my dirty fingers around it.
For so many people, the carrot is wealth, status, a second home or an expensive car. Or, maybe it’s just a huge nest egg they can blow on an lavish vacation. For us, the carrot is so much smaller. It’s a house payment. It’s gas. It’s groceries. These are simple things, they should be no brainers for a God who owns all the cattle on all the hills.
If you’ve seen the movie The Grey, you already understand the parallels. Liam Neeson leads a group of men through harrowing circumstances. A plane crash in the middle of snowy nowhere. Several men die in the crash and the few that survive march through the wilderness searching for rescue. They’re plagued by a pack of angry, psychologically crazed wolves who, one by one, eat the men.
Near the end of the movie, Neeson is alone. He leans up against a fallen tree and yells at God, begging him to show up, to do something, to show himself and to bring rescue. His resolve, after waiting for God’s rescue for himself and his men (and, as part of the backstory, for his dying wife) is to rescue himself. God never shows up.
I’ve been praying this throughout the summer, leaning up against my own fallen tree, inviting God to show up and to bring rescue. And, there have been so many carrots…good looking, healthy, orange carrots. Always just beyond my reach. In our story, much like in The Grey, God chooses to be absent.
It blows me away. It makes me feel out of breath. It’s a place I have no words for. What does it mean that God, who has the immense potential to bless, provide or, at least, offer one day of peace, chooses not to?