On Friday night I went to hear Rob Bell speak about his new book “What We Talk About When We Talk About God.” Briefly I’ll tell you that it is another winner by a writer who never fails to deliver. I can’t imagine that it is as controversial as “Love Wins” if only because the first half is fairly intellectual science talk that many will just give up on once they start.
Rob spends a great deal of time breaking down how we are energy…the breath of God (ruach)…on a subatomic level of our being and then goes on to tell how God is WITH us, FOR us, and AHEAD of us pulling us to better existence and a more divine state of being and love through the centuries (my wording at the end there, not Rob’s). The book and his speaking are engaging, funny, and on-point for so many of us struggling with how to marry the relationship we have with the creator of the universe with the confusing rigidity, exclusivity, and politicization of the church.
I went into this lecture expecting to hear a Word from God. I needed one and had asked for one in the days leading up. Then the moment came. The “Oh this is for me” moment where my skin tingled and my hair stood up on edge.
“Many of us have fallen prey to a Gospel that talks about God-things, God-moments, God coming down. We’ve been taught that God is *THERE* and we are *HERE* and that sometimes God comes *HERE* to help us and then goes back *THERE*. Sadly that leaves us with a great deal of time where we are here…alone…without God and it’s easy to start believing that maybe we don’t need God after all Or maybe that God isn’t real. At the very least we can’t understand why God shows up sometimes in some situations for some people and doesn’t for others. For instance, the Holocaust would have been an excellent time for God to come *HERE*. The truth is that God is HERE…always…all the time. God is breath, energy, life, all around us. And that is why not only do we feel God in the joy, we feel God on the cellular level in the deepest, darkest, soul-sucking times too.” (Close paraphrase)
He went on to take these thoughts deeper, but at those words my eyes flooded and I was reminded of what I know to be true. God was there. In that darkest of dark. He was there all along. Yet using conventional Christianity I’ve struggled at times with why He didn’t DO something. But He did. He was there. Being. Bearing witness. Holding space. Giving me God-breath to survive rather than to be crushed by the weight of the moment.
Grace. But more than grace.
Breath. But more than breath.
By being in that place…my darkest place…the ugliest of moments…and saying “I see you in this moment and this is not love”…God was WITH me.
By bringing me through it. Out of the dark. Teaching me to walk in light and change my energy and beliefs about my past. To celebrate my survival and move through the mud, muck, and weedy riverbank and into free flowing waters. To give me countless opportunities to grow and give and celebrate and serve and love…God was FOR me.
And in showing me that the limiting beliefs I had about being a girl…about being a Christian girl…about being an abused girl…about being a fat girl…about being a poor girl…were so very very wrong. Showing me what it means to be a CALLED woman in a world where there are those who still think that is unfortunate or impossible. Showing me how I can be kind and ambitious and smart and courageous and spiritual without having to bow down to patriarchy or custom or tradition…God was AHEAD of me.
Oh I got a word that night all right.
And I’ve been getting it, digesting it, working it over, and feeling it work its way to my deep parts ever since. Last night, As I lay awake for the second night in a row, pondering all these things, I was reminded of a verse that I’d tucked away a couple weeks ago to think on some more. I knew as I recalled it that God had asked me to tuck it away for just this moment…
“Surely God was in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16)