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?

About lchavez64

Seeker. Dreamer. Ordinary girl.

4 responses to “On being more verb than noun

  1. Vicki

    I LOVE this , Linda!!!!! I think my favorite post…..

  2. Thank you! The poem was truly inspiring. Wow, you sure do rise early;)

  3. annastellam

    This is so challenging to me…I think about being able “to know” a noun in a way that you can’t “know” a verb. It leads me to wonder,struggle with, try to break away from, my need to definitively “know” and lay claim to my idea of God. I love the post.

    • Yes! I think, really I hope, that the idea is to loosen our grip over what we think we know so as to allow a different kind of knowing to happen, one with lots of room for co-creating and loving.

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