Our parents said it to us at some point after we learned to talk. We say it to our kids at some point after they learn to talk.
We hear it (or say it) when attitude takes on, well…an attitude.
“Remember who you’re talking to.”
I reminded my daughters of this the other day. All the signs were there. The raising of the voice. Exaggerated body language. Speaking with a tone that is too presumptuous. And though they are too young to understand the term, let alone spell it, a bit of condescension. A hint of “I know more, so let me educate you.” They were forgetting they are 10 and I’m, well…their Dad.
“Remember who you’re talking to.”
What is it in us that makes us forget who we are talking to?
We’ve heard it said, “Whatever it is you’re thinking and feeling, tell God. Even if you’re angry, pour out your heart. He’s big enough to take it.” This is true. God is big enough to take it. Indeed God invites us to “cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7). He goes even further in telling us to “come boldly before the throne of grace that we might obtain mercy and find grace in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). God is clear. He wants us to communicate whatever is on our mind and heart.
I wonder, though, if in the communicating we sometimes forget who we’re talking to?
The perpetual challenge for Christians of every generation is to worship the whole of God. Our natural tendency as imperfect humans is to gravitate toward the perfections of God we like the most. We like God’s patience with us. We like God’s forgiveness. We like that God never leaves us or abandons us. We like God’s love. I remember the Jesus Movement of the 1970’s where it seemed the love of God was emphasized above all else. It was the aftermath of Vietnam and the the anti-war movement. Years where the peace symbol was found everywhere t-shirts, bumper stickers, and records were sold. A popular book of that time by “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz was titled, “Happiness Is A Warm Puppy.” That’s how many Christians viewed God. He was your pal. A heavenly fuzzy buddy you could get close to.
Certainly God is our friend. The Bible is clear on that. Yet in the process of becoming familiar and comfortable, it seems we’ve pushed aside other equally present attributes of God. Like His holiness. Or His sovereignty. Or the fact that He is self-existent and eternal. God’s righteousness and justice are no less part of His perfection than His love and mercy.
If we focus on God’s love toward us at the expense of His holiness, it is possible to forget Who it is we are talking to. The same God who bids us to cast all our cares on Him is the same God who, with perfect judgment, destroyed people and nations for their sins against Him. The God who calls us friend is the same God whose purity and holiness is an all consuming fire. The God who tells us to ask Him for our daily bread and promises to take care of our needs is the same God who spreads out the heavens like a tent and uses the earth as a foot rest.
Do we remember Who we are talking to?
I can’t speak for you, but during the inevitable episodes of deep frustration and anger in my life I’ve sometimes been guilty in my “God is big enough to take it” rants of forgetting Who I’m talking to. I’ve spoken to Him as though He is blind to my circumstances. I’ve prayed as though I need to remind Him of my plight, that maybe He missed the meeting where we discussed my life falling apart. My attitude in these moments has been equal parts “Where have You been?” and “What have You done for me lately?” Notice where the focus is. My “me” is asking God to explain Himself and to give an account as to His faithfulness. Talk about presumption and condescension. When I do this I’m forgetting that I am me and He is, well…God.
Forgetting that the One we are venting to is the One who created us is bad enough. But when we forget who we are talking to and abuse the “God is big enough to take it” privilege, I fear we sometimes relegate Him to an impenetrable steel diety. A divine punching bag who receives our verbal buffeting without emotion. As if we think God’s feelings cannot be hurt. Or worse, that He has no feelings at all.
To miss this is to miss God’s father heart for us. Follow God’s journey with His children from the beginning and we see Him as a Father who loves beyond reason, forgives without measure, blesses abundantly and relentlessly pursues us when we walk away. Even when we as fickle followers turn and take after gods that spell their name with a small “g”, God woos and pines and pleads with us to return to our first love that we might find our ultimate joy in Him.
The God of the universe has a heart. And of all His creation, we are the only ones who can break it.
Going forward, as we talk with God let’s remember Who we’re talking to. When we remember God’s holiness, it makes His love even more amazing. When we remember His justice, it makes His forgiveness even more incredible. Simply put, the best way to experience God fully is to worship Him wholly.
Do we remember Who we’re talking to?
“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain—For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, should’st die for me? Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, should’st die for me?”
– Charles Wesley
Todd A. Thompson – March 6, 2011