Words by Rev. Rachel Hollander
ONE OF THE TRUTHS that all mystics recognize is that the Divine is looking for us with far greater intensity than we are looking for it; as the prophet Muhammed says in one of his sacred sayings: “Take one step toward God and God will take a thousand steps toward you.”
When I was growing up, God and I were pals. We talked all the time, had secrets, we were close. Of course, back then, God was a “he,” was the perfect mix of Charlton Heston and my Dad, and he lived “up there.” God and I would talk quite frequently. I never questioned that God was there, right there, close by, I was never alone.
The night my Dad left the planet, suddenly, without warning, all of that changed. I began an 11-year war with God. I never denied the existence of God during the war. Our relationship just changed. God was definitely there and I was pissed-off at “him.”
And yet, even in my most angry moments during our war (or what was actually only my war), it always confused me is when people would ask “where is God?” I would think, “Well, where ISN’T God?!?”
We heard this often right after the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center and other times of crisis. “Where was God?!?”
Have you noticed that no one shakes their fist at the sky and cries out “where is god?” on a sunny afternoon when they are out back grilling steaks and everything is going along fine? When they get the new job they wanted? When everything is going great?
It’s only when a disaster or illness happens that suddenly folks question the whereabouts and existence of God. Or God becomes some kind of “naughty child” “causing” trouble (“where is that God now?!? What’s ‘he’ gotten us into? What’s ‘he’ done and how is ‘he’ going to make it better?”).
A little like how we don’t notice the corner of the bed until we stub our toe on it. And then we get angry for it being there!
Or, even still, some folks go even farther with it and say that “God made that happen” as a punishment – like during Hurricane Katrina or anytime according to the Westboro Baptist Church. Not only is God paying attention, he is really pissed-off at us and is now going to knock us around.
So far, we have God as bully, God as mis-behaving 2-year-old, God as Guide, God as punisher….
Here comes the next question: What is our accountability in our lives? In all that happens? Especially when the “bad things” happen? There is a tendency to blame this “God” for everything, as if we’re not involved at all!
So, here’s another question: It’s not so much about “where” is God; It’s more like: “WHAT is God? What the heck do we think God is?!?!” And – during my war with God – who or what exactly was I at war with? Who was creating the pain and suffering I was experiencing?
There are many great pop culture references regarding this, regarding doubt or questioning why things happen. One of my favourites is from”The West Wing,” after the death of Mrs. Ladingham when President Bartlett refers to God as a “feckless thug.” She shows up in the Oval Office and calls him on it, saying, “God doesn’t cause car accidents, stop using me as an excuse.”
Somehow, we end up at a faith versus doubt intersection.
Here’s the thing though, I don’t see Faith as being “blind.” I trust that the chair will hold me when I sit, I have confidence that my key will open my door at home, I know that what I say and think shapes my experience in life. That doesn’t take Faith. That just is.
Here’s an interesting thing about Faith: on an old tv episode of Superman, the brave man of steel stands strong against a barrage of bullets. When the ammo runs out, however, and the villain throws his gun at Superman, what happens? He ducks!! Superman ducks for the gun? If he trusts that he can take on bullets, where does his faith go when the gun is thrown at him?
AN ATHEIST IN THE WOODS
An atheist was walking through the woods, admiring the trees, the river, the sky, all of the creation around him, when he hears a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to see a 7-foot grizzly charge toward him. He tried to outrun it but that bear kept gaining on him. He knew it was over for him and he cried out, “Oh my God!” Time Stopped. The bear froze.
A bright light shone down and he hear a voice: “You deny my existence for all these years, claim I don’t exist and credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament?” The atheist looked directly into the light, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as a believer now, but perhaps You could make the BEAR a Christian”? “Very Well,” said the voice. The light went out and the bear brought both paws together, bowed his head & spoke: “Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Getting back to what God is, here’s how I see It. God, like the batteries in the back of the Energizer bunny is IN us. It is the thing that gives us life, without controlling what we do with it.
Or, think of it Mother Teresa’s way:
“When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them, there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the light of the world (Jesus) in us. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.”
And we are used, every day. In excellent ways and in not-so-great ways. Because God doesn’t discern how we use the energy. That’s our gig.
When there’s a bombing, we can see disaster and want revenge or we can see the helpers and feel inspired to do something. We can choose to get angry or we can choose to get active. We can give up or we can dig in. God, to me, is in the choosing, what we do with what we’re given.
Paulo Coehlo wrote in “The Pilgrimage “:
“You believe that God exists, and so do I. So God exists for both of us. But if someone doesn’t believe in God, that doesn’t mean God ceases to exist. Nor does it mean that the non-believer is wrong….Wherever it is that you want to see the face of God, there you will see it….God is in everything around us. It has to be felt and lived.”
Neil DeGrasse Tyson says: “As they are currently practiced, there is no common ground between science and religion….Although just as in hostage negotiations, it’s probably best to keep both sides talking to each other.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “There is no bar or wall in the soul, where we, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins…From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are
nothing, but the light is all. A person is the façade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide……the soul, whose organ we are, would we let it appear through our action, would make our knees bend. When it breathes through our intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through our will, it is virtue; when it flows through our affection, it is Love.”
And when we get right to the heart of it: It’s the batteries in the Energizer Bunny. Moving us and giving us the strength to keep on going.
Bliss. Love. Peace.
Rev Rachel Hollander is an InterFaith/InterSpiritual minister, writer, teacher, performer, speaker, counselor, and permanent student of life. She is always striving to find Peace in the chaos, Compassion in the conflict, and Connection in the apparent divisions. She is currently finishing her new book, “Throw the Ball: an insider’s guide to navigating the darkness,” and is available to share her song-and-story performance piece, “Choose Again: a journey to wholeness.” (New website under construction: firstname.lastname@example.org – current website: spiritstone-ak.com)