Love God Herself
I have been having some deep conversations lately.
My favorite author Elizabeth Gilbert told me (in her book Eat, Pray, Love) 10 years ago "God exists with in you as you." And anybody who has followed my blog has seen me write about that before.
In that statement there's a beautiful truth tied to a very scary and ugly potential issue.
The truth is that God is never far from you, because God lives in you, works through you, knows your heart and your mind better than you do.
The lie is not stated but implied, as most lies are. You are not God. You're human. You have limits; God is limitless. God exists within you and with all grace and magnanimity, God allows you to be a vessel for power.
At the risk of being cliché, Beyoncé just "told Jay Z" (Beyoncé did not get one over on Jay. Everything she said, he knew she was going to say, and probably agreed to it before she put it out. They're married), "when you love me you love yourself/ love God herself."
If you haven't watched Lemonade, spoiler alert: at the same time that she sings those lines, there's a screen flashing black and white that says "GOD IS GOD and I AM NOT."
As complicated and problematic as this is sure to be for many of you, it's culturally relevant and it's playing out in my life, so I'm going to try and use it.
In Beyoncé's lyrics, in Gilbert's writing, and - I'm starting to think - in life, there's a difficult dichotomy that only the diligent, the meditators, the seekers will find out how to navigate.
God is higher than us, wiser than us, better than us, but God's influence in the earth's realm is all but inextricably bound to humans. If you believe the biblical creation story, God created humans in order to commune with us. So the All-Powerful pours power into weak, frail humans with a funnel.
I don't know what the answer is, but I know what the answer is not.
God does not choose to manifest through humans because that is the only option. God is not bound by us. God's power does not shift or diminish without our cooperation or participation.
The answer might be in the concept Paul calls "being united with Christ" (Romans 6). He writes that we are united to Christ, the Anointed, in his death and in his resurrection, in his suffering and in his victory (1Peter). We are coheirs with Christ of the Kingdom of heaven (Ephesians).
Those who are called and foreknown and chosen.
The answer might be in the Psalm of David. "God has made elohim a little lower than the angels." David uses the same word to describe humans as many other bible writers use to describe God.
I've been debating with a friend as to who God really is. Is God me or someone else? Is God's "real name" Yahweh? Or Allah? Is there one God or many? Can God be named? Is God masculine or feminine or androgynous?
The definitive answer is yes, and no, and none, and all.
Your understanding of God is ever and always dictated by your upbringing, the books you read, the culture you live in, the sangha (spiritual community) you participate in, and mostly your personal needs and style. The road that leads to God is narrow and very few find it. Of those who find it, very few follow it diligently until the end of their lives.
But here's something I didn't understand until today.
If I don't believe that I am at least the tiniest bit divine, that the world will miss a piece of God without me, or that God will not be able to say through anyone else what ought to be said through me, or that I have a divine power that no other human on earth possesses, then I will die.
With every ounce of my being, I know that many people would have taken the number of pills I took five years ago and died. I didn't, because the God in me is stronger than that. Last week, my two selves - God and my humanity - had a battle. This was not the second or third, but probably the dozenth. The inth.
When I tell you that I have no choice but to be alive, please believe me. My humanity fought my God with every single ounce of her strength and she lost handily. God barely lifted a finger and my humanity is bloodied and bruised from kicking against the goads. Death was not a debate, not an option. I could try if I wanted to and would fail like I did five years ago.
Since being here is not optional, I get to choose whether to be dragged through life waiting to die, or whether to tap into whatever reason God has for belligerently keeping me alive.
Beyoncé used excerpts from a Malcolm X speech in the same song I've been quoting. Brother Malcolm says, "The most unprotected...the most neglected person in America is the Black woman." And when I look back on my short life at all the people who never tried to protect me, or who tried but were unable to, I know his statement is true. When I look at all of the lonely days and nights, I know his statement to be true.
But since God is so close to me, and since God's power works through human channels, then I can protect myself. I can nurture myself. I can become my own joy and strength.
Christians say, "you can't, but God can." I say, God will not unless I participate, therefore I must. It matters very little that God can, all that matters is what God wills. The difference between life or death for me is that God wills life. Since God already willed life, without my participation or approval, I have to also will life. And how much more enjoyable for both God and myself if I will, as God already has, that life be abundant, full of joy.
So I'm going to walk into another week and try to love me, i.e. God herself.