Is God a really big guy (all-powerful) really old with a white beard (ever-existent) and sitting on a throne (ultimate king)? This is a common metaphorical image of God. Oh, and he is often angry because his kids are brats and so he hurls metaphorical lightening bolts at them.
This is a pretty limited and juvenile concept of God, but I suppose it is the most common, which says more about human beings than Ultimate Value. More sophisticated thinkers and most religions admit that God, sort of by definition, is unknowable to us, limited as we are by three dimensions and 24-hour days. Even our spouses are not completely knowable to us, yet we don’t deny their existence or claim we cannot, therefore, love them.
I think God is Life, Love, Truth and Beauty-plus a lot more, of course. And I think God is everywhere present, which theologians also say. Yet I find I am a pagan according to most theologians because I think God is present in nature; not limited to nature, but present there. Who cares what theologians think? Jesus said unless you become like a little child, there’s no hope for you, theologians: Go hang out with some pre-schoolers and learn.
My Pagan Childhood
Though we were Catholic, as a kid I was sort of a pagan. I figured if God was everywhere, he was under the beautiful maple tree in Uncle Linus’ hay field that stood all by itself and whispered as you walked past, “Come and rest in my shade for awhile.” And I could feel God by the waterfall deep in the woods, where the rays of sunlight slanted through the pines and struck the wet stones and made them sparkle.
Until I actually thought about it, I said the night time prayer I had been taught: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake…” Wait a minute, is that a possibility? I could die before I wake? How would that happen exactly?
There IS a monster under the bed! I knew it!
I made up my own prayer: “God bless everybody and I expect to wake up alive in the morning. Amen.”
One afternoon the whole gang was swimming when a big thunderstorm rolled in. We knew enough to get out of the water, but stood on the lawn watching the lightening striking trees all around. Some of the gang chickened out and ran, appropriately, into the chicken coop. Only the “bravest” kids remained.
But there is a difference between brave and stupid and my cousin was about to cross that line. “Maybe we should go inside,” one of the brave kids said as a bolt of lightening struck close by. “Oh yeah? Watch this,” my cousin said,” grabbing a long metal pole and running into the middle of the cow pasture where he stood, defiantly pointing it toward the sky.
“Hey God,” he yelled, “If you’re up there, kill me!” We brave kids looked at each other in horror and without a word spun around and ran, we fervently hoped, faster than lightening. It’s not that I thought God would kill my cousin. I kind of thought God might roll his eyes and say, “Kids!”
But I did think holding up a metal pipe in a thunderstorm was a very bad idea. My cousin lived, of course, to do yet more stupid things. (My Pagan Childhood is an excerpt from my book, The Magic Barn)
So where is God?
Wherever you are right now. And if you cannot grasp that God is right there in your office, living room or bedroom-go outside and find the sacred space under a Come to Mama maple tree, beside a sparkling waterfall or even, if that’s your preference, in a church building.