Friday, October 14, 2011

trust, love and the divine.

This god stuff has kept me pretty busy of late. I'm in seminary, after all. It feels like I should have something more than a passing idea of what I understand the divine to be. It also seems like it might be a good idea to develop an understanding of the divine that I can trust, so I can build a relationship with that entity that feels trusting and not likely to betray me.

You know that trust issues are big for me. I know that too, and I know that sometimes I trust too completely and when I get disappointed, I feel that the trust has been broken, betrayed, and the disappointment is crushing and complete. Most folks can look at an incident like this and say "damn. this person let me down. that sucks." whereas for me, it is often emotionally devastating. I know that I can train myself to not throw my heart so completely into situations that are destined to disappoint eventually, but that takes some time. I can also train myself to be compassionate with myself and the person or institution that disappoints me. I cannot entrust anyone or anything with responsibility for my happiness and fulfillment and safety.

It's easy to say that on paper. Or keyboard. Or whatever. It's another thing entirely to do it.

And then there is the opposite side of that coin, which is the idea that I should be able to rely on the divine in that kind of complete and total way. I mean that's the whole idea of having a god, right? So that you can rely on that god completely? Only this is where I get jammed up.

Life is life and the universe is bound to disappoint and hurt us. To rely upon a god seems only to set myself up for inevitable pain when life intercedes and my heart gets broken. But it occurred to me this week that what I have been expecting or hoping to get from god is like what Marlin promises Nemo in that fabulous Pixar movie: "I promised that nothing bad would ever happen." That image of a champion, a superpower infused protector parent is what I wanted in a god.

But it's not really what I understand the divine to be. In conversation this week, I found language for the evolving concept that I understand god to be. I understand the divine as love. God is love. It sounds oversimplified in those three words, but that's about where I am in my understanding. I know that it is often unnatural to consider the needs and well-being of someone else. It is counter intuitive to care about someone else before one's own needs are met. Yet we do it. Humans are kind to one another. We care for one another, and we do it even after we've been hurt. And that makes no sense, but it is truth. Granted there are some unhealthy levels of caring that reach into the realm of codependency, but those unhealthy "Giving Tree" moments aside, I think it is the divine at work when we give to others, when we care for others, when we go out of our way to see to the needs of another. That is god. That verb, that action, that is what god is to me.

So back up a paragraph or two, I think I have been looking for an identity for god that is a person as opposed to a concept or an entity that is a force. I wanted a person. What I got was love.

Now, I can rely on love. I can rely on the idea that even after people are hurt, they will still give. Even after we feel loss, we will reach out again to offer comfort. That is love. And that is god. So what is my relationship now with god as I understand god? Can I rely that love will happen, even in the worst of times? yes. Can I rely that compassion will happen even when it makes no sense? yes. Can I believe that people will reach out to offer each other comfort even when they are hurting? Yes. Must I believe that everyone will always behave this way? Of course not. I can believe that some will, though, and that love -- and thus my understanding of god -- will prevail. I can rely on that. I can trust that. It's a start.

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