I would probably be an agnostic by now if I had not been introduced to the AA concept of “the God of my understanding”. The God that I had up to that point was very Catholic and Old Testament-ish. I feared that God. My fear wasn’t the good kind of fear that I would call awe. Rather it was fear of being punished. Not a very inviting kind of God….
When I heard the idea that I could define God as I understood Him/Her, this was very liberating. It freed me to work on a relationship without being confined by someone’s else definitions. Here are a few things I’ve figured about the kind of God I need in my life:
1. I need a God with whom I can argue. I am someone who questions and doubts. I am also someone who deals with human suffering on a daily basis. As such, I am often angry with God or at least in an argument. I can’t have a God that I have to bow down to. I once came across the idea from a Jewish scholar that, if we aren’t in an argument with God, something is wrong in our spiritual world. Amen to that!
2. I need a God who is both male and female and more. The God of my youth was decidedly male. However, some years ago I was introduced to the idea of a feminine side to God by the Linn brothers and Sheila Fabricant. That God was loving and nurturing. Gender after all is a rather limiting concept but my understanding of God opened up when I met a feminine side.
3. I need a God who is both artist and scientist. Teilhard de Chardin helped me see that God continues to create and that we are each called to participate in that creation. As such, some of my strongest encounters with God have come when I was in the presence of great artistry. Whether at the Van Gogh Museum, Poets’ Corner, or watching my wife portray Amanda in The Glass Menagerie, I have felt God’s presence amidst great art.
But I have also met God through science. To paraphrase the play Inherit the Wind, there is no greater cathedral than the mind of a child. The human brain in all its richness is a wondrous testimony to the scientific brilliance of God. As such, the God of my understanding is also the God of Evolution.
4. I need a God who indeed is love. This world of ours in pretty sad shape. The only hope I can have is based on a belief that there is a universal transpersonal Loving Presence that can inspire and guide us if we are open to It.
5. I need a God who is fluid. If I become stuck on a specific concept of God, my relationship with Him/Her has probably ground to a halt.
Reflection: What kind of God do you need in your life? How fluid is that understanding?
Thank you for those criteria for the God you need. I thoroughly resonate with them. For myself I would add that I definitely need a God of nature, and I need to experience God IN nature. Authentic “church” for me is not within four walls but within the Four Directions of Eagle of the East, Coyote of the South, Bear of the West and Buffalo of the North. Real church for me happens when I sit with my back against a tree and grieve the loss of trees or when I lie on my belly on the earth and feel the Mother’s body against mine. If I’m away from nature for too long, then I start losing my sense of God in the earth, and I have to go back to “church” to restore my relationship with Gaia/God.
Sometimes you have mentioned God’s gender and the fact that relating to the feminine side of God is comforting to you. I think that one’s notion of nurturance depends upon the person who nurtured us. If one’s nurturers have been mostly male, as in my case, then a male God makes some sense. Dr. Patterson is still in the room with every client I see, because part of Patterson still dwells in me. I thought that would go away but it did not. My father is in the room too. It is his voice which says, “soldiers don’t make the wars”. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. All of my recent mentors and supervisors in Mental Health have been Vietnam Combat veterans who wrapped me in their support when I was a “newbee”. It was they who made me feel security and confidence. The face of God can sometimes be male (most of the time in my case).
As always, susan, thanks for your wonderful insights.