Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is your God too small? (or, Let God be all that God Is)

So here's where things stand. (Somehow that makes me think of the part in "Peter and the Wolf" when the narrator steps back a moment and describes the situation--where all the characters were in relation to one another: Peter, the bird, the cat, the wolf. Although this post has nothing to do with that!)

Here's where I am discovering that blogging can get more interactive. Out of the comment box and into the blog.

There have been some conversations brewing in some blog comments of late, and I am delighted that some new readers of the blog are entering and in some cases starting those conversations. Thank you!

This morning I read the following provocative comment from my friend Meredith:

Count on me to jump in and muddy the waters by saying things people may not be ready to hear. But let's try an idea on for size (and I know I may sound a little Michael Dwinell-y* in saying this, but someone has to carry the part of the Questioner).
What if...whatever we call "God" also wants to renounce who or what (we think) God is supposed to be? What if God is chafing too, finds it too confining to be (our idea of) God? What if God needs to throw off the robes so God can grow into all parts of its God-Self, just as you, Sukie, need to be faithful to ALL parts of your greater Self?

Perhaps it's not just priests who are too confined by what we expect of them, but "God" who is too confined by what we expect of God? And in being true to your call, you are reflecting for all of us that it's time to let God be all that God is, which may not look at all like what we believe.

In the end, I still draw the same conclusion: God is Mystery, and the only thing we can do is bow before it.

As always, Sukie, I honor your courage to speak your truth and be faithful unto it, for that is where the Mystery is most alive in you.

To which I wrote the following reply, which will now become the rest post: 

Well now there's something to chew on! Thanks, Meredith, not so much for muddying the waters as for stirring them up a bit.

I do believe that I wasn't just trying to be witty when, in my poem about cutting myself loose from "the ball and chain called God"(that link takes you to my other, currently inactive, blog, called "Freedom Diaries") that God and I would "both be better off this way"--that is, unshackled. But I didn't push that idea further--at least not in terms of how God might be better off. And what the unshackling might really be about, beyond my letting go of my understanding of God which eventually led to letting go of my life as an Episcopal priest.

I remember a book title (not sure I ever read the book) back in my college and/or seminary days, called "Your God is Too Small". Whatever/whoever "God" is is certainly way way bigger than our minds and our language can ever fully encompass or adequately describe. Hence, Jesus' tossing questions back to questioners and his wacky, puzzling parables; and the tradition of Zen koans to confound the mind into "breakthrough", and a mystic poet like Hafiz doing everything he can to stand our ideas of God on their heads, to break all our quaint definitions and ideas and stand us on our heads, too--"to shake all the nonsense out"!

(My current best efforts at "naming God" are: Mysterious source of all that is; or Big Reality; which leads me to . . . Big Mama!)

Maybe that's one of the key messages in all the searching, spiritual and otherwise, that is going on these days, assisted by the internet and global communication and awareness of so many varieties of religious and spiritual traditions: that "God" truly can't be fully comprehended, boxed in, defined, "owned" by any one of us, nor by any one tradition.

T. S. Eliot spoke of "only hints and guesses". That's a modest, humble appraisal of the glimpses we are given to experience and enjoy-- of this Big Mama!

*You can read the colorful description and tribute that I wrote to Michael, who died last year, at this link, "Remembering Michael Dwinell."


Anonymous said...

First, I loved the tribute to Michael and the memories of that awful, reeking bathroom that only The Truly Desperate would use! And to his brilliant, probing mind that never quit even when it seemed absolutely, positively, Oh-my-God-could-it-be-true? that he was asleep when someone else was talking. You captured the spirit of the Bear Man beautifully, and all of our wishes for him after his death.

Second, this is an important question we pose, and Michael would be at the head of the line to pose it with us.

"Can we let God be all that God is?"

"Can we let God be whatever God is?"

"Are we willing to strip away all the layers of projection onto God we have imposed in order to feel better in an uncertain world, and allow God (the Mystery) to reveal itself just as it is?"

"What if God doesn't want to be (our ideas of) God anymore? What if those ideas were NEVER true?"

I know this will rattle some cages out there, probably some pretty big ones, but I assure you Sukie isn't alone in trying to grasp the reality of God instead of assuming---which so many of us do---that we have already been told who/what God is and how God operates.

Try on the Buddhist perspective for a few minutes. No God.

Try on the poet David Whyte: "I don't know if there is one God or many gods."

None of these questions are intended to diminish God but to EXPAND God. Expand our ideas of God. Expand our relationship with God into something more authentic.

That's what Sukie seeks, if I may presume to stand in her corner for a moment and cheer her on: a relationship with the Mystery that's authentic rather than mandated. To attain that she first has to show up as authentic herself...and wait for God-the- Mystery to come to the encounter as well.

Throw off the robes. Throw off the vows and ties that bind. Not to say we don't still gather in communities where we explore the nature of God, but what if we do it in the spirit of exploration, just as we would a new friendship, rather than waiting for someone else (a priest/rabbi/minister) to reveal God's true nature to us. That's too much weight-of-projection onto our clergy, who (truth be told) probably long for authentic relationship with God as much as any of us in the pews.

If we lift the projections onto God and clergy, and wait for the encounter to begin...I suspect things may get very interesting.

Sukie Curtis said...

"If we lift the projections onto God and clergy, and wait for the encounter to begin...I suspect things may get very interesting."

Amen, sister! Very interesting indeed.

And yes, I do imagine I'm not the only one among all those sister and brother clergy who long for a more authentic connection, or who have it and know it and cherish, and can't figure how the heck to bring it into the pulpit, sanctuary, or whatever setting.

I have a very large, very soft spot for just those colleagues and hope to provide support, solace, and courage to them, as well as to other searchers and seekers.

Sukie Curtis said...

I do want to add that I don't imagine my story to be "prescriptive" for everyone but rather descriptive of my own journey and potentially illuminative for others.

But I do want to acknowledge some of my brother and sister clergy who are doing their honest best to be authentic and live authentically, even knowing the structure and traditional trappings are a mixed blessing (neither unmitigated good nor unmitigated disaster), and who are channels for grace and healing within it. That turned out not to be a path that worked for me; and I often marvel that anyone can possibly make it work in a healthy manner! And it remains to be seen if traditional religious structures can be open and flexible enough to adapt to the present day currents of breadth and depth that "God" seems to be stirring up.

Still, I bow to those who are doing their best to work within the system to stretch it and change it and also to model something different from within. I count one or two of them among my best friends!!

Gail Dawson said...

Real Live Preacher just posted this moving piece ("Talk to the Hand") on his blog--having just, in the past month, resigned as a long-time pastor from his Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church in San Antonio:
Worth a look--he, like you, Sukie, has chosen fearless honesty rather than staying within a structure that for whatever reasons just isn't working anymore. And I think of the word 'structure' as being intentionally ambiguous.

(Is is coincidental that my word verification for this comment is 'blesti'?)

Sukie Curtis said...

I love how those word confirmations often seem like some heavenly riddle/joke!! Thanks for the blog mention, Gail.