God In All Things?

ImageThe moment of enlightenment comes when, like the mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg, we see “God in all things and all things in God.”

It is an awesome thought. If God is in this life struggle and this life struggle has something to do with the God-life in me, then it is to be dealt with reverently, thought through gently, handled honestly, and lived through trustingly. Then the flailing will cease. Then the despair will dissolve. Then the bitterness can ebb. It is not that God is in this awful thing, treating us like mice in cages and tweaking our tails with glee. No, it is that we are in God. We are safe and loved and wrapped round with the Divine.  What can really harm us? What can be taken away that will leave us bereft? What can rob us of life once we decide to live in the heart of God?  –Joan Chittister

Today, as in other days past I am both challenged and comforted by this idea that Mechtild of Magdeburg seemed so sure of all those hundreds of years ago.  Seeing God in all things and all things in God…

Last week my husband and I found out that his role, his job, would be eliminated in yet another reorganization of the ginormous company he works for.  This morning it was announced in a room filled with his peers and bosses.  He is living it real time.  I am living it vicariously.  And I am both asking and answering the question:  Where is God in this?

Where is God in the disregard to his (my husband’s) loyalty and dedication?  Where is God in the lack of compassion of this decision?  Where is God in the pursuit of more and more material gain at the expense of so many?

It feels at first, and, truthfully often times in the midst of this, that God is hiding.  I wallow for a bit entertaining the idea that we have been abandoned here to fend for ourselves in the doubt and worry and sorrow.  It feels pretty rotten to let this defeat sink in, that we have moved for nothing, that we will soon have to move again.  It feels pretty rotten to watch my husband suffer this blow to his self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It just feels pretty rotten.

But even as I feel this sorrow and doubt, and perhaps just as sure as Mechtild must have known it, I know that God is in the fray of all of this.  God is in the muck and messiness of our life right along here with us.

God is in the stillness as we sit together, my husband and me, silently staring out at the ocean.  God is in the argument we have on the walk there, me not allowing him his frustrations and feelings.  God is in our stretching to understand and support one another through yet another of our life’s struggles.  God is in our intention, realized or not, to live the life we have been given and not the one imagined.  And God is in our hope.  What can really harm us? 

post note:  please send prayers our way 🙂

On being more verb than noun

river flowing

Please can I have a God

(after Selima Hill)

not fossilized, hardened, stiff, unshaken,
not contained in creeds and testimonies,
judgments and stone tablets,
but in the wound breaking open.

Please can I have a God
who asks me to worship at the altar of mystery,
to lay aside certainty, and curl up
in the hollow of a great stone down by the river,
to hear the force of it rushing past.

Please can I have a God
with questions rather than answers,
who is not Rock or Fortress or Father,
but sashays, swerves, ripens, rages
at the rape of the earth.

Please can I have a God
whose voice is the sound of a girl, long silent from abuse,
now speaking her first word,
who is not sweetness or light, but the fierce utterance of
“no” in all the places where love has been extinguished.

Please can I have a God
the color of doubt, the shape of uncertainty,
who sees that within me dwells a multitude,
grief and joy, envy and generosity, rage and raucousness,
and anoints every last part.

Please can I have a God
who is not the flame, but the flickering,
not bread, but the chewing and swallowing,
not Lover and Beloved, but the making love,
not the dog, but the joyful exuberance when I come home.

— Christine Valters Paintner

Above is an excerpt of a poem that I recently found in my email inbox.  The poem is much longer but I have included the parts that have spoken most to me.  I have read the poem over and over trying to glean her meaning.  Some parts console me, like imagining God in the wound breaking open.  You, like me, have surely known the heartache of which she speaks.  I am never more fully present than in grief and I have met God there.

Some of her words, however, challenge me deeply.  I bristle at her urgings for a God who is not Rock or Fortress.  No, not me.  Rock or Fortress have worked just fine for me.   I have needed God to be strong, strong enough to hold me up and to bare the weight of all the burdens and hurts and catastrophes of the world.  But then I pause.  Have I needed God to be so strong, in fact, that I may have fossilized the Divine?  Perhaps in all this naming and fixing, I have created my own need to be named and fixed.  I have created my own need for certainty and absoluteness when in fact God may be more fluid.  I begin to see that in doing so I may have also erected a barrier through which God should be able to flow creatively in my life.

I remember in the Jewish Scriptures that when God revealed God-self to Moses on the top of that mountain a bazillion years ago, God said God’s name was  “I Am who I am.”  Some scripture scholars have explained that the name was more fluid than static, the longer version being:  I am who is and who is becoming…and even further, I am becoming.

So the poetess advocates upending my catechism a little.  She invites me to long for a God who is more verb than noun…the flickering, the chewing and swallowing, the loving.

What if I were like God, more verb than noun?  What if God were the holding and I joined that holding up of the burdens and the hurts and the catastrophes?  What if we flowed together not being concerned with the destination just the flowing?  What if I entered into the Mystery so fully that no noun could define me?  What if surrendering to God, the verb, draws me into a creative, liminal space where God is most free to act in my life and together we become?