Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What Is God Doing In Your Life?

I have been helping a local woman who is two days away from becoming homeless. She said to me today, "I just feel like God is coming through for me. I just feel like He's blessing me and isn't going to let me go. I just thank Him so much today."

I've gotten to the point where this kind of remark doesn't irk me in the least anymore. It used to. I'd think, "So what happens when the housing assistance grant doesn't come through or the nice minister doesn't pay the phone bill and the food pantry is closed when you get there? Where's your blessing from God then?"

I have changed. Now, when I hear such expressions of gratitude to God, I just chime in with something simple like "God is good."
I have come to believe that God does care about this woman, personally. No matter what the day brings, there is a life force coursing through her veins that is the same as the life force that runs through all of creation, and it fills her with the desire to connect, to survive, to cling tenaciously to whatever beauty and grace can be found, and to give thanks for the small things that go right.

Is what I am calling a "life force" a euphemism for divine love? Can we call it God?
I do.

Why should it offend our intellectual sensibilities -- we who tend to be so radically uncomfortable with such a personal concept of God -- to affirm this woman's faith? What good does it do us, or her, to be snarkily dismissive of her belief system? Do we really think that this woman is going to use her belief in God to oppress others, or as a smokescreen for abuses of power? If not, why do we treat her with the kind of contempt we reserve for the religious hypocrites who do believe that their power comes from a God who personally rewards and anoints them? Because in my experience, we do just that.

Are we not covenanted within a religious movement that affirms the right of conscience and the centrality of freedom in discernment of the spiritual path? We are. But notice that we only make room in our worship, our fellowship and literally ALL our outreach materials for those whose God concepts are sufficiently abstract. Don't believe me? Do an audit. You will see that I am right.

Some Unitarian Universalists do have a very personal sense of the Deity. Some of us are developing one (and I count myself among them). If we feel we truly belong within Unitarian Universalism, you can bet it isn't by virtue of our theology, but by virtue of birth or an M.Div. from Harvard or by some other standard of acceptability (we're liberal enough, we're gay enough, we're beloved eccentrics among our congregations or we just plain keep our mouths shut about how God is present in our lives).

Maybe when UUs can question -- or eradicate -- their own assumption that those who believe in a God who works directly in their lives are weak-minded bliss ninnies, we will move more decisively out of the adolescent period we've been mired in for decades.

I'm a pretty educated gal by ordinary standards. And I can tell you that nothing I've studied in the area of literature, pedagogy, history, psychology, sociology or organizational development has required anything like the depth of concentration and intellectual rigor that my recent, private study of my own belief in God has required of me.

God ain't for dummies.


Blogger UU Soul said...

I struggle with the fact that I have personally moved from a skeptic to a believer worldview and don't easily see how that fits in with my Unitarian Universalist community. I haven't suddenly returned to my Christian faith past, but I now feel that I need something more than just the joy of questioning and freedom of disbelief.

That said, my problem with statements that God is specifically assisting someone at a certain moment is the flipside the statement creates - when bad things happen God isn't blessing you... isn't with you. It always strikes me as cruel to those who haven't been so lucky.

There must be a way to express a sense of connectedness and gratitude without creating a division between the blessed and not blessed.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Good to hear from you, UU Soul, and I dig your flashing icon!
Thanks for writing.

Blogger dame olympia's page said...

this thread is helpful, PB... I'm in a residency where we're being asked to answer the question, weekly,
"What is God doing in your life?"

this week I didn't have an answer; it's too important a question to create a polite non-answer; and it's a hard question for me to answer, especially in a community that is extremely christian centered.

I pride myself on being more comfortable with God/theistic language than some/most UUs, and this question, it stumps me every once in a while. It is good to hear a UU think out loud about it.

Dame O

Blogger Joel Monka said...

As I'm sure you've gathered from my other posts, I do believe in the Divine, and I have felt the Divine presence. Although I have been a rationalist in my day, I was never able to shake the feeling completely; I was only able to try to argue myself out of what I knew was true despite all arguments. Eventually it became impossible to deny God.

Today I find no conflict between my spiritual life and my intellectual life, and the conflict was resolved by a very rational process. It's an axiom that when reality doesn't match your math or logic, it is the logic that's faulty, not reality. This is a hard pill to swallow- even Einstein tried to deny reality when Quantum Physics didn't match his logical conclusions. But I've managed to swallow my pill- and found in the end it was harder for me to admit to myself I believed in God than it was to tell others.

Blogger indrax said...

Fantastic post PB.

I don't know this woman, but I think my reaction to her comment would be to percieve, as you put it 'weak mindedness'. I would wonder if she had thought through the implications of what she was saying. I'm just as wary of ill-thought-out atheism. (come to think of it, this would be the athistic compliment to her statement: "I lost my house/phone/food, God isn't real.") Particular life events don't prove anything. I mean, believe what you want, but have good reasons.

I don't know if that's intellectual elitism, or a demand for a responsible search.

Blogger Chelle said...

hey there PB....when I was growing up we learned the saying "God is good all the time and all the time God is good."

For the longest time I used to say it because it was what was said, but then I got to thinking about what MLKjr said about the arc of history being long but bending towards justice and I've been struck mute because he's right. Most things take patience, and that's something we have to learn more. This instant culture of ours is going to be our downfall.

Blogger UU Soul said...

Thanks, PeaceBang :) I have to give credit to for my lovely flaming chalice. Great the topic!

Blogger Wally Nut said...

Thank you so much for your post, Peace Bang. I am thinking of your nightly practice of reading Scripture and how it is changing you as a person. It seems to me that this woman of which you speak has a practice of thankfulness. I do not think there is a more powerful practice. Those who are masters of this practice will have just as much thanks for the moment when all has fallen apart, perhaps even more thanks, for it is in such times that the biggest shifts are posible in our lives. I believe it would be the epitome of elitism to challenge her practice just because she may not yet have become a master in it. Actually we do not know. Perhaps she is already a master in this practice. Instead of being critical, we might learn from her about this practice of thankfulness.

Blogger Pastor Peters said...

PB, I went to seminary with a whole bunch of UUs. Some of them would fall into the category that you describe. But, not all of them.

Recently, I had dinner with one of my very favorite UU ministers when I was going through a tough time in my discernment process. I was warmed by the fact that she was the only one among my faithful friends that I understood exactly where I felt God was at that moment.

I offer this because I think UUs often get a bad rap -- not unlike members of my own denomination. Faith is intensely personal and I can't imagine a more honest way of engaging that relationship with God then simply asking your bold question.

May God bless you each and every day in a very personal way.


Post a Comment

<< Home