I set out in the beginning of the Lenten season with the intention of taking a deeper look at the divine image I carry. You can read my intial post here if you so desire.
It seemed good to set it aside for a bit but I have had to revisit the topic because I recognized how much of my internal response to the current situation depend on what kind of God I believe in. And the God I believe in determines how I inhabit myself and treat my loved ones in this critical time, so it is vital to know what and who I am allowing to influence me.
Rather than following my original plan of a longer series of posts I am going to condense some thoughts a bit and offer some reading material that might be helpful to others who struggle with accepting unconditional love the way that I did for many years. It has only been in the past year that I drew a line in the proverbial sand, refusing to believe that these caricatures bear any resemblance to the One who IS.
Here are some other forms the divine image has taken over the years. Perhaps you can relate to one or more of them? All of them have a modicum of truth in them that can be found in scripture, and that is what made them so hard for me to shake for many years. I am using hyperbole in my descriptions to show how damaging they can truly be.
* The Godfather: I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse. These are all of the terrible things that will happen to you if you don’t worship and love me appropriately. Unfortunately this version of God is what often passes for the gospel (good news). If this deity were a person, he/she would be considered a criminal at worst, an abusive personality at best.
* The Capricious God: Never Stable…you never know quite what is going to happen. And God may just to decide to move at any time so you better be paying attention or you will miss “the move of God.” This God was heavily influenced by emotion and charismatic/pentacostal theology.
* The Jealous God, was the God who wanted to “possess,” my heart. And any normal daily tasks like taking care of my children or just doing household things were to be viewed as not very important as compared to my relationship with God. And other interests like art, music, etc? They were a guilty indulgence. I think this view was tied to lots of reading of older writings that I was not ready for as a young adult. I particularly read and re-read the works of Madame Guyon. There may be beauty and truth in those writings, but I was not in a place to receive them. And my true feeling on her writings in retrospect is that there is a real lack of balance there, but that is only my opinion.
Thankfully, there are people who are spiritually healthy that have so much to offer in terms of a grounded and loving view of the divine. Those are the ones I allow in these days and that have aided me through the years. Some are Christian, some are not. If there is help for you here, I am grateful. If not, that is fine too.
Everywhere Present by Father Stephen Freeman
Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God by Dennis, Sheila, and Matthew Linn ( I like many of their books)
Multiple Writings by Lev Gillet
The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It, by Hannah Whitall Smith
The Laundry List: The ACoA Experience by Tony A.
Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh (and other writings too)
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
The writings of George Macdonald. There was a tiny little book of his sermons that I wish I could find and I can’t recall the name of. But his theology of love permeates all of his writings, fiction and non-fiction.
For the Life of the World by Father Alexander Schmemann
Inner Compass, by Margaret Silf
Prayer in the Cave of the Heart by Cyprian Consiglio (I had the good fortune to hear him speak at a conference years ago and have learned a good deal about healthy spirituality from his books)
This is a very short list and there are certainly others that have been helpful, but these are a good place to start. I do want to once again point out that though I have been well versed in scripture, and know some early church history and theology, I am not a theologian. I do highly recommend Father Stephen Freeman’s blog for some deeper theological reflections. I have found his writings to be very balanced and sane. He has written extensively on the topic of shame and I have benefited from those articles as well as his book.
Love and peace to you wonderful folks~