RM: I wanted to answer the question, “Is God really good?” People can get behind a Jesus that they like, but this lurking, deistic power of the Old Testament isn’t all that likable. Jesus is better PR for hooking people. So really I was trying to deconstruct the idea that Jesus and God are different. We’re dealing with a God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. A God who is eternally creative and self-giving as Father, a Son who is always sharing with us all that he’s been given, and a Spirit who takes all that and makes it beautiful. When we’re captivated by how beautiful, loving and good God really is, it opens the door to freedom.
Q: Your sub-title promises to help people “fear nothing” but the Bible talks numerous times about “fearing the Lord”. Should we fear something? Is that a good thing?
RM: The references to fearing the Lord are about reverence. That you care enough about what God thinks, who God is, and what he’s doing in the world and that you would be more than mindful of him as you live and organize your life. When scripture talks about the fear of the Lord it’s being mindful that my identity, my approval, and my belonging is actually anchored in God. If I respect that, then I’m free from all these other places where I’m tempted to run for identity, belonging, and security.
Q: A lot of people live with rampant insecurities. What advice would you give someone that is seeking to live free?
RM: We need to move toward a faith that believes and trusts that God’s love is real. That God really is good. That can cause all kinds of anxiety in us. That anxiety, and especially fear-producing anxiety, comes from these places underneath us that are broken, twisted, and misaligned. I think the hope of a good, loving God is to believe that his story is headed towards a good end and my life is made for a good purpose. My identity, security, belongings and sense of hope is fixed not on me or other people, but on the goodness of this loving God. I would encourage people to identify that thing that is causing their insecurity and hold it up in front of this loving God and ask, “does that belong in my life?”
Q: As a follow up to that, you say “When his enslaved people cry out to him for freedom, he hears—and responds.” But many people would say they have tried to call out to God and God has not responded. How does this work?
RM: Most of the time what people want is for God to be a self-help God that we can utilize to change our situation. But God is a little more dangerous than that. I think he’s a God that allows us to stay in our addiction. To not come running the first time we cry out because he has a bigger thing that he’s trying to form in us. When we can get into the place where we’re no longer afraid of the pain and actually embrace it, there’s an active presence of God there that we can experience. Maybe not the way you wanted it to be, or pain-free version of it, but there’s legitimate transformation that comes from the spirit who sits with us in that place of pain. I don’t have to be afraid of the pain or afraid of my own brokenness or afraid of my sin. I actually can embrace those things and God’s love is big enough for those things.
Q: You talk about embracing the pain. But in our culture we run from pain, maybe even with medication. Is that really true freedom?
RM: When I say fear nothing, the fear of pain is probably one of the biggest ones that we face. We have all these distractions at our fingertips. We can go drink, get high, have sex, do whatever we want to escape whatever pain is inside of us. When God doesn’t respond quickly, we just write God off. The truth is those things just spiral deeper and deeper into more addiction. When we become more addicted, we become less human. We become less of ourselves. Suffering is part of the human story. Pain is part of the human story. The idea that we’re going to get out of it without experiencing that is ludicrous. The question is, “Can I experience pain and be fully alive in my pain?” God isn’t going to act like a narcotic. If that’s what you want, you’re probably going to be disappointed and blame God and blame the church. God doesn’t do pain avoidance, but actually suffered the depths of it so that he could bring us resurrection life. We’re all going to have our moments in the garden, at the cross, in the wilderness. That’s part of the spiritual dream of what it means to become fully alive.
Q: What are some practical steps you’d offer somebody who is beginning the process of pursuing freedom?
RM: I think the scariest step is the surrender to love. To actually go “I can’t control this anymore, it’s controlling me, and I need to surrender to the love that the Father has for me.” You have to let go of self-protection, and that feels like a type of death. It feels like “oh my gosh it’s so big, and it’s too hard.” To me that’s the first step. It’s the first step of AA, and it’s the first step of most people that are walking away from an addiction.
Q: You point to God as this model for perfect freedom. How is that? How is God perfect freedom for people?
RM: I’m basing it off the idea that perfect love casts out fear. I think underneath all of our desires for freedom, the most overarching one is that we would be loved. For me if God is love, he’s not just this abstract blob of love. God is love because God has always existed in this communion of love, this relationship of Father, Son and Spirit.