I'm Breaking Up with the Prosperity Gospel.
Dear Prosperity Gospel,
Oh man, we've had some good times you and I. When we went out together, I felt like anything could happen. When I think back on our relationship I will fondly remember the excitement and passion I felt in your arms. There were signs and wonders. The sick were healed, or at least some of the sick, and I could focus on the miracles I saw and tell those stories and forget about the people who didn't receive their miracle. They had the decency to slink out of the revival services quietly, waiting for God's timing, or reevaluating the strength of their faith on their own time.
I think what I loved best about being with you is how you made me feel about me. I could accomplish anything. There were no limits to my potential. If I wasn't rich yet, I could be soon. After all, God rewards those who diligently seek him. And if my reward didn't exactly look like material wealth, ease and comfort, I didn't have to question you and what you taught me, I could just work harder to be a little more diligent. Or I could change the way I was seeking. I could seek God with more expectation. I didn't have to worry about what "reward" was supposed to mean. If I started to wonder if the rewards God offered had more to do with peace, love, joy, and perseverance, you'd take me out to a fancy show where we'd entertain ourselves with testimonies of people whose rewards were exactly the kind of rewards we were hoping for! Reward meant whatever you and I decided it should mean. I never felt discouraged because my circumstances were bound to improve.
I loved the people who loved you. So it made you even easier to love. There were so many people singing your praises who had their lives together. I had so much to aspire to, as I bought their books, and paid their ticket prices and gave them my money, knowing that the more I emulated their life, the closer I'd feel to you. I didn't mind that part of what I gave them went to polishing up their image because when they looked good, it made you look good. And the better you looked, the more people would love you. I wanted everyone to love you as much as I did. And I think I sort of hoped that all that polish would shine me up in the process, and one day I'd be on that stage, wearing those expensive clothes, and telling people how to climb on up on stage with me, basking in your glory.
I never really stopped wanting to be with you. Part of me still wishes we could hit the town one last time. I miss the confidence I felt with you. I liked the thrill of the chase. But the glory I chased with you doesn't seem so shiny anymore. It's not your fault. It's just that I fell in love with someone else. It happened gradually. I thought I could spend time with Him and still be committed to you. But the more time I spent with Him the less I enjoyed our time together. I started to think like Him and notice the people He noticed. And then it began to bother me that you didn't see those people when we were out together.
Jesus doesn't promise me a lot. In fact, He's guaranteed that our life together will be hard. He is loving and kind, but when I chose Him, I knew it meant I'd have to quit choosing me. He doesn't take me to fancy places like you used to, we spend our time with the least of these. We notice the people whose lives aren't working. We see the pain, the lack, the hurt, the disappointment, and we meet those needs first and foremost with love. It is slow. It takes so much time.
We don't use magic words to dismiss their suffering and shower down blessings from heaven. But we still see people blessed. There are still miracles, and when I see them, they almost remind me of you, but they're a little different. It's hard to put my finger on it exactly. I guess it's that no one feels like they earned the blessings, and no one takes credit for them. When they happen, it's unexpected, not predictable, and so every time it is a mercy.
And when the flashy miracles don't happen, no one blames themselves. Instead we all look together for the rewards God has given, seeking out His heart, even if what He offers is different from what we were hoping to receive. And in our gratitude, we stay. We keep loving people and watch a different sort of miracle happen, the slow miracle of a transformed heart in the middle of suffering.
I watch people turn to Jesus not because He took their pain away but because He stayed with them in the middle of the pain. He saw them when no one else did. I start to look at the blessings I have, and instead of feeling like I deserve them, I start to wonder how I can share them because since I've been spending time with Jesus, I've negun noticing need all around me. I don't discount it. I don't minimize it. I see it. And I don't try to meet it with snappy sounding theology. I meet it with whatever I have. Pouring myself out. Giving up some things I wanted for myself. Or at least, that's what I'm trying to learn to do. I'm not good at it yet. I still have to unlearn some of the fancy footwork you taught me. I have to stop wishing we were together again, dressed to the nines and dancing past the disappointment I sometimes feel now. But you and I are through. I don't want to go back to you, because even though we had a lot of fun together, the disappointment I feel with Jesus is more life-giving than all the empty hope I ever felt with you.
Amy Noel Green
Amy Noel Green is a Ted Speaker, author, and video game designer. She received international press attention for her work on the video game "That Dragon, Cancer." The video game tells the story of her son Joel who died from cancer at the age of five.
She is the author of the upcoming book, "Dear God, How Could You?" (When Joel died of cancer after years of miracles, Amy questioned God. She shouted her betrayed, angry questions at the God she no longer understood. She buried many miracles with Joel. She buried her relationship with God too, but God’s love for her refused to stay in the grave.) Subscribe for updates on the bottom of her about page, to be notified when her book is published.