Spiritual rebellion is not a popular topic for the sermon of the week. I think that is because even pastors can be somewhat unclear as to what it really is. The word, rebellion, summons up pouty teenagers staying out past curfew or military coups somewhere overseas. Most people I ask believe that spiritual rebellion is disobeying God. I suppose it is in a very vague sense, though occasionally I do disobey God, and I am no longer in spiritual rebellion.
Spiritual rebellion is an incredibly painful rejection of the life that God has given you. Do you wish you had been born to another family? Do you wish that you had a different body or face? Lived in a different time or country? When you look in the mirror and reject what you see there, you are in spiritual rebellion. Why? Because this type of decision is a rejection of the life that God gave to you.
Such decisions are arrived at for very painful reasons. Perhaps your parents were abusive, or you were born in a war-torn country. When you look in a mirror, you compare yourself with other, more attractive people. And at the heart of this choice is anger. To feel out of place or to be convinced that something is fundamentally wrong with you is a terrible place to be.
The theology surrounding the decisions made by Adam and Eve covers a lot of ground. Some say they curious. Others say they were deceived. I think both were probably true. But the heart of their decision was to reject the life that God had planned out for them. It was pretty chice, too. They lived in a beautiful garden, played with animals all day, and walked in the evening with God. That is basically what I want to do with my whole life, every day.
But somewhere along the line, they became convinced that their life wasn’t good enough. Not nearly good enough. Adam and Eve didn’t want to be them. They wanted to be bigger, better, more powerful versions of themselves, of God, even. They lost sight of the preciousness of their own existence. But this conclusion of theirs, that their lives were inadequate somehow, is no different than the choices we make now.
None of us choose our biological parents. Our bodies can be sculpted, I suppose, and surgery can fix what genetics didn’t give you. But that you have a body and a life at a certain time and place is a result of choices and relationships that you exerted no control over. And you are called to a variety of relationships that you fell into without the chance to consult with anyone. And some of those can only be described as disastrous.
That some people get lucky breaks compared to others is no joke. It would be easy to digress about the reality of evil here and its devastating effect on a hurting world. But this post isn’t about the whole world. It is about you, specifically and the life that God, from before the foundations of the world, called you to live, in a body that may or may not work perfectly or may or may not attract the notice of the opposite sex.
Some of you may need to forgive God. Before any of you religious folk tries to tell me that God is not at fault, I know that. But if you had an alcoholic parent or one that beat you, or if you grew up in a crime-ridden neighborhood where drive-by shootings took out people you love, then it is possible that you are mad about the choices made for your life that had nothing to do with you. And the natural person to blame is the one who did have control, at least seems to. And that would be God. We hold grudges against God all the time and need to release them.
Spiritual rebellion requires a rejection of one’s very life. For even those of us whose lives come with a fair amount of favor and good breaks, to fully embrace one’s existence and its limitations take courage. Take faith. A lot of faith, actually.
For some, that decision to reject comes early. A crying baby, lonely in the crib, learns that life is hard and not on his or her side. The only thing that makes our lives livable or enjoyable is love. So before you judge someone as being in rebellion against God, recognize they probably do not know what it is to be loved. We accept ourselves based on whether or not our parents or somebody, somewhere, early on loved us. Enjoyed us.
We can only enjoy our lives if we are taught enjoyment. We can only love ourselves if we experience someone’s love for us. Big love. We love because He first loved us. I used to say that I hated parts of my body, especially my tummy. I envied those girls who had flat stomachs. At fifteen, I was 5’8” and weighed 117 lbs. And I thought I was fat. Having lots of beautiful babies didn’t give me a flat tummy, either.
One day, God convicted me. He said, “I love your tummy. I made it. It held four beautiful girls safe while they developed. And it works really well. You digest your food. You don’t get tummy aches. I think I did a pretty good job making it.” But every time I looked at my body, I critiqued it. And it sounded like the devil. Your legs are pretty good but your arms are weirdly long. Small ears, check. But that nose is stupid looking.
Such a minor piece of spiritual rebellion. Or is it? Eating disorders, endless makeup tutorials, and the #metoo movement tell me that our obsession with being more still goes on. For women, beauty is power. And we want to be more beautiful. Just like Adam and Eve wanted to be more. To have more. I repented of the self-hatred. I repented of judging God for having made me imperfect in my eyes. And you know, the anguish that I felt over my body disappeared.
The heart of spiritual rebellion is self-hatred. And self-hatred is nothing more than a wholesale rejection of God. When someone gives you a precious and unexpected, undeserved gift, do you throw it away because it isn’t exactly what you wanted or thought it should be? Probably not. And yet, when we look at our lives in all their glory and suffering, beauty and failure, and judge them worthless, we judge the Maker of our lives worthless as well.
Why? Because He made us in His own image. The pattern and fabric from which we are formed is God, Himself. This is why self-hatred is spiritual rebellion. It hurts you. And it grieves Him.
Put down your weapons you hold towards your very own valuable self. Ask Him to show you how He sees you. Your healing may not be overnight, but learning how to receive love is the prerequisite to learning how to give it. And you are made from the best materials the universe has to offer. You look just like your Dad.
Experiencing the Father’s Embrace transformed my husband’s and my view of God. That is all.
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