What do you feel when you read the word “God”?
Here, try it.
I’ll tell you what I feel if you tell me what you feel. 🙂
I feel a male presence. I feel something above me. I feel a little nervous and maybe a little stressed. I feel like I’m about to be told what to do. I feel rebellious. I feel angry at the belief in God that has caused so much suffering. I feel like it’s an empty word. I feel like it’s letters on a page that are supposed to do something for me that it isn’t doing. I feel my intellectual mind say, “no.” I feel like a non-believer.
For the longest time in my work as a Cantor, I have avoided the use of the word God. In my Temple we have all kinds of ways to refer to the direction of our prayer and gratitude without using the “G word.” In some ways, I really appreciate this way of thinking. It invites us to consider a concept that is beyond a name or an outside force. It invites us to fully pray and participate without having to believe in anything. It invites us to allow our history, our present, our future, our relationships, our natures, earth’s nature, our passions and our compassion to be the focus of our energies.
But I miss God.
Sometimes I need someone to talk to, and I don’t want to or truly can’t use words for what I need to say. Sometimes communicating with another person isn’t what my soul is calling for. Sometimes I need to get outside and inside of myself simultaneously. Sometimes I need my breath to carry thoughts out of me and then carry some answers back in. Sometimes I want to feel a hug from the universe, or an encouraging push, or a shoulder to cry on that comes with complete acceptance. Sometimes I want to be understood when speaking only with an emotion. Sometimes I just want to say thank you. So, I look to God, without really knowing or caring whether or not there is one, because it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was able to connect.
So, what if we could take all of the baggage out of the word God?
What happens if we think of God as…
… a mother who can hold us the way we remember being held as children.
… a lover who can remind us that we are beautiful.
… a warmth that can surround us like a patch of sun on a cold day.
… a friend who can make us laugh and put it all in perspective.
… a mentor who can help us figure out who we are and where we are going.
… a daddy (let’s stay away from the word “Father”) who can run around the yard with us, allowing us to feel joyfully safe.
With those images in mind, I try to resist my instinct to run away from the word, and I say, “Thank you God.” Thank you God for allowing my children to be as healthy and happy and interested and interesting as they are. Thank you God that my body works well. Thank you God for the fact that I have choices. Thank you God for the fact that I am lucky enough not to live in fear. Thank you God that my husband and I are still together after 21 years. Thank you God for my home, for my talents, for beauty, for the 5 senses, for joys and sorrows. Thank you God for all the complicated magnificence that is life.
Thank you God. I know my hands are Your hands. My eyes are Your eyes. So, I will look for goodness in all people and places and moments, and I will use my hands to help this world be healthier and kinder for all peoples.
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