I met Dobi during my last visit to the Drug and Alcohol Addicts Center. Dobi is a woman in her 50s, intelligent and still beautiful. Once she was a brave and joyful young woman who enjoyed life and tried extreme sports like parachuting. Yet, with the years she became victim of alcohol and this broke her world to pieces. As I looked in her eyes I realized how much she is ashamed and sorry of her being here.
After we talked a little bit about where she came from and what her job was, I asked her. “Dobi, what do you think about the Supernatural reality. Is there a God?” She said: “Well, I think there is some sort of a power…”
Most of the Bulgarians claim they are Orthodox Christians. Yet, when they have to define what this really means and how God looks like they say that God is just an impersonal power.
Whenever I hear this answer I feel like asking, “That is a very safe thing to say, isn’t it?” On one hand, knowing that the person who asks you is a Christian (and a pastor!) you don’t want to hurt him by saying you don’t believe in the existence of God.
On the other, you decide to simply create a god in your image and likeness. A god that is close enough to help you when you call him and not too close to interfere in your life. Because you realize that God, if he exists, is holy, you can’t bear this.
People want the benefits of being a Christian but avoid the responsibilities a follower of Christ should have. It's like what happened to Bulgaria after the fall of communism. We wanted the benefits of freedom and the free market economy but have ever since been avoiding the responsibilities of living under the supremacy of law. We try to suppress the trauma of living in an orderly society.
As the Swiss theologian Karl Barth puts it, “religion is a result of the suppressing of the trauma caused by God's holiness.” People avoid their fear and shame in meeting the real God by choosing to create their own ‘safe’ religion and gods.
Yet the Bible tells us that worship of our selves or idols is called idolatry. And idolatry is a sin. The only way we can avoid idolatry and face the trauma of meeting the holy God is through God’s grace. We can find shelter from God’s fearful holiness in Jesus’ wounds.
As we were talking about the difference between dead religion and personal faith in Jesus Dobi was listening. I could tell this was the first time when she, similarly to many others, had to face the real God in her life. She had to deal with the trauma of meeting the holy God. She had to make that jump and open her Parachute. Trust Jesus. I hope she will.