“So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.”– Ex. 32:14

I’ve always binned the Old Testament God in the “angry and scary” bin and the New Testament God in the “loving and forgiving” bin. But today I found myself comforted by the tense exchange between Moses and God. How can an angry frustrated God and such conflict be comforting?  As I dive deeper into this “comfort,” I realize that it is more a deep sense of accompaniment and solidarity. God knows what it feels like to be frustrated, to be angry, to be anything other than perfectly understanding at all times. Indeed, I am made in his image, even these sides that I tend to exclude from who God is because he is “perfect.” Could these other aspects of who God is and who I am be part of what makes me whole and “perfect”?

Recently I was reflecting on various relationships in my life - family, friends, co-workers, etc. and have found myself reminded and grateful for the struggles in all of these relationships. While being in the midst of conflict, discomfort, frustration, and struggle is anything but desirable, I have learned to see that in the situations where both sides decided to “lean in,” it always resulted in a deeper, more fulfilling relationship and connection afterwards. However, in moments where one or both people did not lean in, the relationship either stayed surface level or dwindled away. I found myself observing such a tense moment between Moses and God in the first reading today. And oddly enough, it is Moses who is talking God off of the anger ledge.  And he does so by reminding God of his intentions and who he is.

At work lately I find myself coming head to head with co-workers in very stress filled situations on the edge of causing rifts in the office. But when we are able to remember our intentions and who we are, we find a way to push through the conflict. As a result, I feel closer to my co-workers than ever before. The same is true with some of my friends. In some relationships we have confronted each other with feelings of unimportance, pain, anger, and frustration. In the cases where both of us leaned in to honestly hear one another and not dismiss or run away from the confrontation, the relationship deepened. In the cases where that didn’t happen, we grew further apart.

Could it be that this is how my relationship with God works as well? Perhaps there are times I am angry at him and other times where he is frustrated with me. Are these the times that mold us into a deeper image of God - of ourselves? Perhaps during this season in the desert, I am being invited to continue to face the conflict, discomfort, or struggle and that all of these things make up who I am but don’t define me, just as God isn’t only defined as the God of “wrath and punishment” in the Old Testament.

How are you leaning in? What are your intentions?

Joan Ervin