God is God, and we are not. So then, the problem becomes, that we only have our limited, human minds to think about the non-human God. We only have our human perceptions of what power and love look like from a God who has power and expresses love in a very not-like-us sort of way. Bumping into our own limitations drives us crazy as we seek God. We continue to try to apply human words and human emotions to our ideas of what God might be.
Anne Lamott is a writer who does this with grace and humility in her writing. She takes a story that she senses to be true, and she tells it to point toward, possibly, something that might be in the direction of being true about God. Take this passage from her Operating Instructions:
“I have a friend name Anne, this woman I’ve known my entire life, who took her two-year-old up to Tahoe during the summer. They were staying in a rented condominium by the lake. And of course, it’s such a hotbed of gambling that all the rooms are equipped with these curtains and shades that block out every speck of light so you can stay up all night in the casinos and then sleep all morning. One afternoon she put the baby to bed in his playpen in one of these rooms, in the pitch-dark, and went to do some work. A few minutes later she heard her baby knocking on the door from inside the room, and she got up, knowing he’d crawled out of his playpen. She went to put him down again, but when she got to the door, she found he’d locked it. He had somehow managed to push in the little button on the doorknob. So he was calling to her, “Mommy, Mommy,” and she was saying to him, “Jiggle the doorknob, darling,” and of course he didn’t speak much English—mostly he seemed to speak Urdu. After a moment, it became clear to him that his mother couldn’t open the door, and the panic set in. He began sobbing. So my friend ran around like crazy trying everything possible, like trying to get the front door key to work, calling the rental agency where she left a message on the machine, calling the manager of the condominium where she left another message, and running back to check in with her son every minute or so. And there he was in the dark, this terrified little child. Finally she did the only thing she could, which was to slide her fingers underneath the door, where there was a one-inch space. She kept telling him over and over to bend down and find her fingers. Finally somehow he did. So they stayed like that for a really long time, on the floor, him holding onto her fingers in the dark. He stopped crying. She kept wanting to call the fire department or something, but she felt that contact was the most important thing. She started saying, “Why don’t you lie down, darling, and take a little nap on the floor?” and he was obviously like, “Yeah, right, Mom, that’s a great idea, I’m feeling so nice and relaxed.” So she kept saying, “Open the door now,” and every so often he’d jiggle the knob, and eventually, after maybe half an hour, it popped open.
I keep thinking of that story, how much it feels like I’m the two-year-old in the dark and God is the mother and I don’t speak the language. She could break down the door if that struck her as being the best way, and ride off with me on her charger. But instead, via my friends and my church and my shabby faith, I can just hold onto her fingers underneath the door. It isn’t enough, and it is.”
I know this is a human and limited vision of how God loves, but I find it to be true and helpful. I know what it feels like to be scared and alone, sobbing in the darkness. Not speaking much English. Not understanding the calm suggestions from behind the closed door. Not being able to find the peace of rest. In these moments, I do wish for a God who is powerful enough to knock down the door that I have locked. But almost always, after a bit of time of confusion, I find the fingers of my mother-God under the door. Like Anne Lamott says, “It isn’t enough, and it is.”
Describe a time when you felt like the two-year old: alone, in the dark, scared, and God seemed inaccessible.
Did God break down the door or offer you a few fingertips to touch?
Did the door open eventually? Did you feel God’s love? Was it enough?