Communist China in the late 1970s. A girl is born. She grows up in an inland city and goes to its university where she studied English literature. Post-graduate studies took her first to Germany and eventually she arrived in Bath with a surprising question.
“What can you tell me about God?”
She never really said how she came to ask that question. She had taken it into Roman Catholic churches in Germany but in Bath she arrived at a Baptist church. She had no real idea about these two churches. She just assumed the people there would be able to answer her question.
The first I knew of her was after she had startled the person sitting beside her with the question as they waited for the service to begin. Afterwards she was introduced to me who, it was deemed would know the answer.
There followed months of brief encounters; chats in the street, over coffee after any services she attended and eventually she joined a group studying the bible and she began to find the answer.
One day she told me with passionate honesty that she now knew who was God and she wanted to share her life with this eternal power.
She worshipped regularly; she prayed and studied the bible with intense devotion and gave every appearance of becoming a Christian believer
One day I received an e-mail. It read starkly: God is disappointing me.
We met. She was angry but more than that felt let down by the god she had thought she could trust. She was struggling with her studies and her time at the university was coming to an end.
She appeared to be in constant conversation with the ‘God of eternal power’ and he was not giving any signs of caring or giving her a sense of purpose. She felt let-down.
We talked about providence, discernment and the need to wait on the Lord but I knew it wasn’t getting anywhere fast.
She left the city soon after – still praying – but in turmoil. Had the god she had sought for so long been no more than a ‘Wizard of Oz’?
Was she only seeking a god who was just simply more effective than the totalitarian state which had shaped her early years?
And had I and the Western Church assisted in the collapse in her faith?
As we continue to speak of a god of power and might; a god who is ultimately in control and far too little of a self-limiting god who seeks relationship not comradeship, are proclaiming a false god?
I believe hymn-writer Brian Wren is closer with his wonderful poem/hymn: Great God, your love has called us here which includes these lines
‘we strain to glimpse your mercy-seat
and find you kneeling at our feet’.
In the Godfather of Jesus we see the humility of greatness.