Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Do You See What I See

In an odd twist of holiday fates, I was singing Christmas carols on Halloween. Monday night is choir practice. I was a little late getting there, waiting for my kids to get back and dump their bags in exhaustion. It was eerie, driving down the dark streets, black figures darting everywhere.

Yet, once inside the church hall, I was hurtled fast-forward into Yuletide.

"Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb?"

My daughter is at the age where she wonders if people all see the same colours. Maybe what she sees as red, I see as green, only I call it red. Her seven-year-old brow furrows as she puzzles this through.

Do you hear what I hear? I now confess to a heresy. I don’t hear a still, small voice. I don’t hear the Word. I don’t hear the Almighty. I don’t, as Annie Dillard suggests, have any inclination to wear a helmet to Meeting for fear of the forces let loose from the universe.

I hear a cry, like a baby.

I first heard that cry on the eve of first Gulf War. Canadian soldiers were heading to war for the first time since World War II. A huge multifaith group had gathered in our city—some 200 Hindus, Catholics, Muslims, Bahais, Evangelicals—all in the same room, all in agony. We sat in silence, with some rising to sing, some to chant, some to pray with beads, to weep, to return to silence. I heard it then, the cry of a baby, helpless, abandoned, forgotten.

"…a child, a child,
Shivers in the cold,
Let us bring him silver and gold…"

Why do people have a Father-God image for God? I think it’s because for millennia, the human race lived like children--gathering nuts and game from day to day, telling stories around a campfire every evening, knowing little, believing anything. They didn’t read, didn’t think, didn’t know, didn’t lead, only followed. Their lives were too short and too full of suffering to spend perfecting knowledge. To our child-ancestors, God had to be a big, strong man, a protector, a granter of wishes, a champion always on their side. A powerful Father. Mighty King. Lord of hosts.

"My God is so big, so strong and so mighty,
There’s nothing my God cannot do!"

But we’ve grown up now. We’ve learned secrets of science, disciplined ourselves to use reason, even participated in creation. We are now the adults. Having an image of God as more-adult, super-adult, more powerful than ourselves seems like a worship of power more than a worship of God. I don’t find any spiritual meaning in it.

Nor does it mesh with the realities of our collective spiritual life. Everything of God—that of God—is so fragile. Democracy is fragile. Human rights are fragile. Peace is fragile. Opposed to these there is the power of the jungle: tigers, cobras, malaria, jackboots. Oppression, force, distortion, lies, crucifixions.

God is so in need of our protection. We have the task of keeping God alive among us, feeding God, helping God to grow. It’s the reverse of the old image: now it’s we who carry God through hard times, so that it’s our footprints in the sand.

Otherwise, I’m afraid God might die.

Later that night, as I drove home, the ghosts and witches had all vanished. The jackboots and Guantanamo Bays and insurgencies and political machinations and anti-terrorism legislations had faded away. I was left only with the cool, fall night.

"Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite."


At 5:32 PM, Blogger Larry said...

Real good writing, Nancy. I appreciate your theological perspective, and largely share it.

Thanks for visiting our blog. We need good critical thinkers like you.


Post a Comment

<< Home