God and Time Embrace
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God enfolds me, like a mommy or daddy, nuzzling me through the flu, cuddling me close on a snowy day, or tucking me into a warm safe bed. And, just like with our babies, God sometimes has to say "no" to me, when what I think I want is actually not the best for me, or could actually hurt me. Like a parent, God sometimes just knows better, and it is up to me to trust and be patient. It is not easy.
Joyfully Embrace What God Is Doing
But after I have cried myself to sleep, wake up spent somehow cleaned out, and refreshed by tears, God is right there. Loving me. The feeling is always: "Shall we start again? Dying helped me not to be so afraid. If that is the worst that can happen to me, that is not so bad, not at all.
Just like the endless chances God seems to allow me to start fresh, start again … it seems that it is never too late, for any of us.
It is my secret against fear: fear of aging, fear of losing the people I love, fear of illness and death, and all the myriad other fears that plague me, all day long. Beneath those fears, what frightens me and causes hot tears to spring from my eyes, and my chest to tighten, is the fear of being alone. Of being separate, cut off and out there duly punished for my sins.
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I still find myself thinking about a vengeful and terrifying judge, an image formed long ago, who keeps a list of everything I ever did wrong, every person I hurt, or mistake I made. My internal childhood voice says that judge will never forgive me. When I am tired, sick and scared, that list is waved in my face, and my courage lapses. But then I am once again scooped up and enfolded by God's warm hand. Like the breath of a mommy's kiss near my ear.
Like my daddy swinging me up and onto his great shoulders. I am loved. I am protected. I am safe. I suppose the most difficult challenge is accepting that all this is true. God really loves me just the way I am. God understands that I am a being in process, evolving and learning and trying my level best.
It seems to me that my imperfections inspire only greater compassion from my Mommy-Daddy God. Like the loving parent God sees beyond a kid unable to pronounce my Rs, or needing thick glasses, or requiring braces or a wheelchair to get around. During my difficult times, God feels that much more protective, tender about my inadequacies, and invested in my progress. I have often been accused of "making lemonade out of lemons," that is, always looking for the bright side.
But I suppose when dying turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, that can't be helped. Many religions in our world have both male and female gods. They pray to each intentionally and separately, whispering their dearest wishes to that particular icon, hoping they will be understood and assisted accordingly. In my early years of being raised Catholic, I was instructed to disregard other ways of knowing God because our faith was the one true path to heaven.
In that scenario only people who accepted Jesus were saved. We know differently today. My experience in heaven changed that exclusive position. Instead, it helped me understand that any belief structure that helps people feel an intimacy with the divine — provides them a sympathetic male or female ear into which to whisper in the dark — can only be a good thing.
To feel united with our Creator is remarkable. To feel beloved by that source, truly, deeply, all the way through you, that's just plain amazing and life-changing. If God can be patient and compassionate and forgiving with me, then in turn, I might be brave, compassionate and forgiving enough to offer those same things to others. Perhaps it goes back to the same core issue: trust. I either believe that God loves me eternally, and the universe is abundant, with plenty for all of us. Or I am putting my money on a judgmental, list-keeping God.
In the popular culture Santa is an enduring holiday icon. We can climb onto a great warm lap, tell someone in secret what we want, and if all goes well, our wish will come true. In an unfair and uncertain world, that is a very comforting process. Many religious traditions also have an image of Jesus' mother, Mary, a sheltering and protecting mother, who enfolds us into her arms holding our deepest fears and inexpressible joys close to her heart.
Like the Abba of Jesus' prayer can she be a Mama to us all? So, I love the Marks and Spencer envisioning of Mr. Santa, if only that it reminded me that there might not only be a he up there, but an us, encircling and enfolding the world, listening and caring for each one of us down here. Perhaps the answer to our prayers just might occasionally come from the female part of that couple … however uncredited that response may be.
Flaws in the Argument
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Column Scripture for Life. Held in God's loving embrace.
Finding God beyond our childhood perceptions May 6, This article appears in the Daily Easter Reflections feature series. View the full series. A new understanding On May 2, , our son Nick was born. On May 3, , 20 hours after Nick's arrival, I died. Childhood images Until that experience, I related to God like most Catholic school kids. An intimate God After my brief time behind the "pearly gates," however, my vision of God entirely changed.
Accepting a new image I suppose the most difficult challenge is accepting that all this is true. Safe in the shelter of God To feel united with our Creator is remarkable. Opening ourselves to the mystery Jun 23, Walking with the marginalized Jun 21, How to hold a canopy Jun 20, Ships passing in the night? Jun 19, Join the Conversation Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor.
Enter your email address to receive free newsletters from NCR. Email address. Column Held in God's loving embrace. National Council of Catholic Women prepares to celebrate centennial Nov 9, It's just how things work here. But God is not like people! Aren't you glad about that? We need to learn that whether or not we feel forgiven, we're forgiven.
It's Time to Embrace Grace
If you really know God's Word, no matter how you feel, you can speak scriptures over your life and pretty soon your feelings have lost their authority. For instance, 1 John says that if we repent and confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us. You need to take hold of that.