Like so many women, I’ve worked most of my life against the patriarchal image of god. I’ve done it consistently for almost 50 years but I still run into that guy with the white beard in my head, much to my frustration. I’ve worked hard to replace that image and maybe that is the problem. I’ve come to think that broadening my images might be a better way to go about what I’m trying to do. I don’t need to replace him just ask him to move over and share my head.
It is very hard for me to see the god I was raised with as a warm and loving anybody, much less father. He is really a scary dude. The biblical god is cruel, whimsical, and takes pleasure in the slaughter of thousands and thousands of people on a regular basis. It created us, gave us a test it knew we would fail, then punished us forever for the failure. Is god a power that really needs people to praise it all the time? For what? It’s ability to make people suffer? I don’t get prayers asking for things, though I do it out of hope, not faith. Could such a power exist, I suppose so but as a human it seems all so pointless. I want the god who choses prayers of thanks, for those things are the miracles in the world.
I’ve been looking for a god of real justice, of love and mercy, a god who holds you in her hands and gets you through all the shit and pain, fear and jealousy without going totally crazy. I’ve found her little by little, sighting by sighting as I look at life with gentler eyes. If I take the chance of looking every bit of life in the eye I find that spark. To look everyone in the eye I had to quit assigning blame. I had to really see that we are all actually dealing with our own stuff, theirs just looks different than mine. Even if they are the royalty of Dubai.
Our lives are all so messy, and it is all just awful to have to clean up after ourselves. Some of us end up living in the squalor of our messes, some give up and let it pile up higher day by day for not being attended to. Some of us learn to cope with some of it, trying to clean up after ourselves, even helping each other at times. Having some sustaining power who cares if I make it, makes a difference. I really seem to need someone to answer to, someone who cares. Sometimes I think I might be getting ahead of the game, others times I know I’m losing ground fast. But either way my god gives me hope that I will make it because I’m not really totally on my own.
Holy books are great, up to a point. I replace the male pronouns and write down useful things I find. It’s so hard to winnow out the chaff, there is so much of it. I keep looking for more efficient tools to clean it up with. I’ve found a few the most important being I try to live a simpler life so I don’t make so many new messes.
To get where I want to be I need a god to whom I can’t lie, a god to whom I can’t avoid admitting what’s true. If she sees the mess, I have no excuses left. I need a god with compassion, not one who seems to want to send me to everlasting hell for not trusting myself or knowing what to do and making a mess out of my life. That god is too scary. That god saps me of hope because I know there will always be failure in my path. I need a sense that god cares, this christian god is untrustworthy. I don’t know how to placate this god who demands too often that believers fall on their swords, demands too often I give up who I was created to be to the designs of someone else’s ideals.
Admitting that life is a mess is the essential starting place. Change only happens when you see there is a need. Sometimes it is tweaking, sometimes it is cleaning the Augean stables. Without the hope of a god, it’s all pointless. How can it be done and even why put so much effort in when in the end you are just going to die, go poof, into nothing. The mess is just too huge. The mess is all over, everywhere, next door, here in our own homes, not just in some foreign land. How can we look at all the poverty and injustice without a god to give us hope that there is some reason. I don’t buy that god is mad so is killing innocent children. And it’s too hard to live in a world where the only answer is, shit happens.
In my teens and 20s I went through a period of blaming god and saying if he was real I wanted nothing to do with him. I basically I wanted a new god who was at least not so much of a jerk so much of the time. It’s not the fear of hell but the injustice of it that made me reject the whole thing. Being in college in the late 1960s meant I was very much into the feminist ideas. I thought since god isn’t human but I need an image if I was going have a relationship with a god that I would chose a female image. I had good role models of loving mothers, even if mine wasn’t. I’d kill two birds with one stone and make this god into the mother with whom I could have a positive, accepting relationship with. I was done with job’s god.
Men have interpreted the creation story to justified the subjugation of women for thousands of years. I refuse to live by that book. The rules given to Moses were reasonable but men were so unable to accept them as applying to themselves that they turned the laws on their head and made the commandments the very reason for violating their god’s rules. In the end I’ve given up reading the old testament. There is too much just awful stuff in there to ferret-out out the bits of wisdom. The Tao Te Ching is a lot most accessible. So often institutional religion has drained the spirit out and replaced it with hubris and coercion. The whole institution thing is so corrupt, I appreciate why so many have tried to start over. That is in essence what I’ve done, starting with the very face of the divine.
From that starting point I became a seeker, which I remain to this day. I found that Quakers encourage this seeking, are rooted in a personal source of the light within each of us, and the idea of personal responsibility to the light that we seek to lead us through the mess we inevitably make in our lives. In becoming a Quaker I’ve grown in the image of that of god in each of us. I’ve been amazed by power of the Light and its continuing revelation though each and every person. God is working in and through each one of us. In some people it’s just a bit harder to see than in others.
It is particularly hard to see in those who have given up because the mess around them makes their light really dim. God shines through in the work of our minds and hands. Even a gun that has no other use than to kill people is a work of art, each concept executed in that weapon is the result of the light that someone found inside themself, that reveled itself. Look at the knitting Friends do in meeting. They take this long piece of yarn or thread and they make beautiful things. They make useful things, they make necessary things. That inclination to create is god shining through. God looks like a baby blanket, like a row of lettuce, an old used tire that needs to be cleaned up, it is all god’s work through us. In there is the face of God.
Even those who would deny that god exists because science shows them how all the pieces fit together still can’t answer the question that points to god. How did it all start? Where did the first spark come from? You can trace it through black holes to other dimensions but not back to that very first thought that came before the very first atom or spark of light. I side with those who say god exists and that I am is proof that she is.