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So Say Yes

I have found a key. Nothing is ever lost. You can never be lost. When the stomach flu racks your body or death disintegrates you or you’re born or born again or you fall in love or lose a leg, nothing is lost. When you fall, God catches you. You can never be lost.

You can be transformed. Sometimes forces beyond your control transform you – an earthquake takes your house or kills you or kills someone you love, or you grow from childhood to adulthood, or you die, or you’re born. When God transforms you – and God isn’t unwilling, whether you’re for or against it – the best thing you can do is give yourself to it, let it be. Have peace and throw up until the flu is done. Relax. When you’re dying, do death. There’s no fear. You can never be lost.

And then, sometimes, maybe even most times, whether and how you transform is up to you – and God isn’t afraid of what you choose. If you drive a car and get hit, or jump on a skylight and fall to your death; if you take responsibility or blame everyone else for how you feel; if you practice a spiritual discipline and see God; if you study carpentry and become a carpenter – you choose to transform or to stay the same, and God says yes to your choice.

So when God chooses to transform you and it’s beyond your control, it’s best to say yes to God’s choice. God isn’t afraid of your choices, and you don’t have to be afraid of God’s. No matter how you transform, you can never be lost. Nothing can. Not God. Not you.

I may or may not have assented to this thought before today, but I have never put it together in so many words, and more importantly, it wasn’t a point of belief. I know that spirit is a different faculty than mind, and belief is a different object than thought. Realizing that you do or don’t believe something is immense. Today I discovered this, and I discovered that I believe it. I found a key: something that my spirit knows to be true. And that helps me understand God. It gives me a way to believe in God, and to trust God. Because this is real.

Today I realized that death is Miss Hickory‘s return to the apple tree.

There is a very big reality out there called God, and God is my friend, and I have a relationship with God. And I don’t know if God loves me per se, but I know that God is too immense and subtle and complex and implicit to call “it,” while “he” and “she” are plain misleading. So I use the clumsy name “God,” a name obviously insufficient to contain the love I have or the living relationship at hand.

I do not know you, God. And I know you. And no matter how we transform, it all takes place within the context of this relationship.

So let me say yes to you, and may you say yes to me. Let us be lovers in that way, and let our choices be good – O God, let them be good.

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  1. Alex
    April 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    I was pleasantly surprised to see several “new” entries on your Begin Again blog. I was struck by how your thoughts, especially your wrestling with personhood and interaction with God and spirits, is remarkably Orthodox, or at least both Eastern and Christian. It’s a little esoteric, not the stuff you’ll hear in the average Sunday homily, but in short, Orthodox theology is apophatic, refusing to qualify or describe God in positive terms, since God cannot be known by us in his essence, much less described. We can refer to his energies – the ways he interacts with his creation (specifically us, most significantly in that inner voice or way that you describe praying) – but we can’t refer to his essence, except to say that it’s not like anything we know, or are able to know. Of course, pronouns are therefore as misleading as anything, but I think that issue is too fraught with semantics and feels too pedantic to be addressed much by Orthodox theologians. And Orthodox theology falls more on the neither/nor side, considering that to be less misleading than the both/and side. St Gregory of Nyssa said “Ideas create idols. Only wonder grasps anything.” In other words, we can certainly “know” and interact with God, but only by receiving, not by reaching out in a direction we imagine. And the intellect is at best a stepping stone to that direct experience of wonder.

    • April 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Wow, thanks for this. I really appreciate these thoughts.

      I’ve often marveled about how intuitively orthodox I tend to be. And yet I also feel that orthodoxy comes with a certain strictness of terms which doesn’t make me not want them, but makes them not want me; that is, they’re working within an us/ them that precludes my interaction unless I were to sign on, whole hog – which is reasonable (I haven’t joined the club, therefore I’m not in the club) but it’s also working within an in-the-club, not-in-the-club binary, which, by its existence, excludes me. Nevertheless I do feel that the orthodox tradition is one of the friendlies, one of the ones that lies close to what I experience in my search for the truth.

      Pronouns are problematic, but I can’t dismiss them as semantic. From a perspective of literary criticism (which is built into the way I see the world) subtext is as important, if not more so, than text; it contains the unspoken body of meaning which determines how we interact with the world, in ways we’re unconscious of. I’ve always been more concerned with the things I believe, say, do unconsciously than those I do with awareness, because what you’re not aware of can control you in ways you might not like, if you were aware of it. Part of my attempt to live a circumspect life is to listen, then, to those intuitive currents which act on me, despite what I think and know. Of course you can’t become intellectually aware of everything, and that’s not my goal; but to be experientially aware of the things I’m doing, that’s deeper and different; it’s an in-the-skin knowledge. But I digress.

      My point is, pronouns are nothing but semantic on the surface, but on the level of subtext, they make huge statements about the nature of things, statements which resound down to the bones. I don’t expect that resonance to be felt, or to be important, to those who have held a place of power, importance and belonging in the church (the theologians you mentioned). But to those (women) who are daily, moment by moment, sentence by sentence excluded by the very language we use as we talk about God, that resonance shakes the marrow.

      There are women who aren’t aware of it, of course; there are women who actively participate in the language of their exclusion (as I once did); and there are both women and men who are sensitive to it. Having become aware, I have no wish to go back. Despite the enormous awkwardness, and the at-times paralyzing inconvenience of having no word (pronoun) to talk about God, I can’t call God he. Unless I’m going to call her she in the next sentence. (Did I mention the awkwardness?)

      This is my small attempt to make the world a better place – to dismantle a ubiquitous power-imbalance, to uproot the idol of God-as-strictly-masculine, and to (daily, moment by moment, sentence by sentence) acknowledge the place that women also hold in the chain, the family, the inheritance, to redefine their belonging as primary, rather than secondarily derived.

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