Gina Christian

Prayer card in hand, I closed my eyes, furrowed my brows and whispered, “Jesus, I surrender myself to you; take care of everything.”

A wave of anxiety washed over me.

Frustrated, I repeated my plea, only to feel my stomach clench as one worry after another snarled my thoughts. Would I finish a key project at work by the deadline? How would I mend a strained friendship? I hadn’t heard from an elderly relative in a few days; was she doing well?

And then there were the concerns that had enveloped the globe for months: overwhelming sickness and strife, neither showing any sign of lessening.

I sighed and rubbed my eyes. “Why can’t I seem to cast all my care on you, Lord?”

The answer was a silent rebuke: “Because you’ve got me all wrong.”

I was perplexed. After all, wasn’t I sitting in a church, praying a novena written by an Italian priest who was a close friend of Padre Pio, and given to me by someone who was himself a priest? Besides, I’d been to daily Mass, said my rosary, and was at that very moment wearing a Miraculous Medal. Where — and how — did I go off course?

Quite easily. In his 1961 book “Knowledge of the Holy,” author A.W. Tozer observed that too many Christians unwittingly entertain what he called a “low view of God.” Instead of hushing our spirits into an “adoring silence” at the divine majesty, said Tozer, we’re too often content to act as “self-confident, bustling worshipper(s)” of a God we’ve reduced to “manageable terms.”

No other question is more central than that of God’s nature, Tozer argued, since “no people has ever risen above its religion, and … no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.”

It’s entirely possible, he said, for believers to profess a “sound nominal creed” while their “practical working creed” — the faith that does battle with daily life — is false.

When we don’t know the almighty, loving, holy God as he really is, we end up creating him in our image. Tozer wryly noted that the result is often a pastiche of “all the religious pictures we have seen, all the best people we have known or heard about, and all the sublime ideas we have entertained.”

Such creations, made by created beings, can only enslave rather than save us. We may not bow before the gods of the ancients, but we are no less idolatrous, and worse so if we commit our heresies while thinking ourselves devout.

In my case, weeks of willfulness, masked by a punch-list piety, had left me distant from the Lord. I’d been “checking the boxes” with God, except the ones that really counted: refusing to let difficulties steal my peace, offering forgiveness to those who’d offended me, placing others’ needs before my own, opening my heart to the Lord in gratitude and obedience.

No wonder I couldn’t cast my cares on God and surrender to him in trust: I was aiming for someone who wasn’t there, instead of the Christ who simply wanted me to, like Mary the sister of Martha, sit “at his feet listening to him speak” (Lk 10:39).

Chastened but relieved, I bowed my head and again closed my eyes, as the words of Psalm 46:11 echoed in my heart: “Be still and know that I am God.”

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Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, producer of the Arise podcast and host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.