I’ve been trying to name the un-nameable in my writing lately.  I’m on draft seven of the prologue to my memoir, and critiques from classmates and my teacher called for more specifics about my spiritual journey. In a revision, I wrote about being in the mountains and having a “sense of a spiritual presence.”

 

My teacher replied that she tripped on that phrase.  She went on, “Makes me wonder why you don't say ‘God.’  I wonder if it would work better to either say ‘God’ or somehow add a little phrase of explanation for why you don't.  A tall order, I realize.”

 

So, this week, I’ve been writing my way through to the words that explain my experience of the Divine. Sometimes I call it Spirit. Sometimes I use the word Presence. Often I don’t capitalize. I write about an essence or of wisdom or a sense of being held and loved. But I still hesitate to write “God” to name what is at the center of my life. That three-letter word carries meanings that no longer fit for me.

 

I long ago outgrew the images of God I learned as a child. God as a man with flowing white hair and beard. God as judge. God as the all-knowing master puppeteer of every person’s actions, decisions, and journey. God controlling the wind, the rain, the mountains and seas. God with all the answers.

 

My experience of God has very little to do with answers. One of the things I treasure about Quakerism is the understanding that God’s way continues to unfold, that new light can shine onto changed understandings. I suspect God is as bewildered and distressed as I am at much of what happens in the world. The God I believe in doesn’t have answers to why young people get cancer, why earthquakes and hurricanes and wildfires and planes crashing into buildings kill thousands of people, why marriages fall apart, or why crops fail and people starve. 

 

I also don’t think God makes any of those things happen any more than God helps someone pick the winning lottery numbers, get elected or get cured. But my lack of belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing God doesn’t stop me from praying for peace, for healing, for wisdom, for courage.  To whom or what am I praying?  I do believe there is something outside of me, beyond me, and within me, within all of us, always, that knows us and loves us unconditionally. This something is so much more than a person, a man, a human-like entity. It’s more felt than seen, although I find ample evidence of that presence in the faces of children and old people, in the sunrise pinking the sky, in hands extended in aid and friendship.

 

Perhaps it’s time for me to let go of my fears that readers will bring their own meanings to my words as I write of my spiritual journey.  Don’t we all do that when we hear stories of others’ experiences? Aren’t those stories openings into our own? Perhaps my writing task is to show my journey toward that essence, that presence, that spirit, that I know as God. Readers will find the names that fit for them.

 

Note: Enlivened by the Mystery (Friends Bulletin Company, 2009) includes an essay about my spiritual journey; a draft of the first chapter of my memoir is in the Summer issue of SHARK REEF Literary Magazine.

Views: 195

Comment by Rick Seifert on 9th mo. 27, 2011 at 8:33pm
This Friend speaks my mind!
Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 28, 2011 at 12:02am

"Presence." Taking a walk some time, some place, where there aren't many people... and then someone appears, close or far, and comes toward you. And you feel the presence of that person, go past them smiling if that's what they're feeling, pick up some other feeling if it's something else with them...

 

"A Presence." Like that, but with no person in sight?

Comment by Beth Belch on 9th mo. 28, 2011 at 3:48am
I like "the Divine" or "Spirit of the Divine". It feels descriptive, but without the risk of feeling exclusive.

Comment

You need to be a member of QuakerQuaker to add comments!

Join QuakerQuaker

Support Us

Did you know that QuakerQuaker is 100% reader supported? If you think this kind of outreach and conversation is important, please support it with a monthly subscription or one-time gift.


You can also make a one-time donation.

Latest Activity

Kirby Urner posted a video

My World View

Summarizing my views to date. In World Game, we look through the "eyes" of different nations, empathizing from each point of view. What does the world look l...
7 hours ago
Mike Shell posted a discussion
7th day (Sat)
Jim Wilson liked Keith Saylor's blog post A Different ministration of Life in relation to others.
6th day (Fri)
Kirby Urner posted a video

Promised Land

In the School of Tomorrow, we learn how to think globally before acting locally. Here's a link to the 'Tower of Babel' video I mention in passing: http://www...
7th month 16
Windy Cooler posted a video

Releasing Ministry Alliance Opps 1 Under the Care of final

“Under the Care of” July 10, 2019 8-9 pm Eastern time What does holding a ministry “under the care of” a meeting entail? Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting (Baltim...
7th month 15
Keith Saylor posted a blog post

A Different ministration of Life in relation to others.

I am encouraged and grateful my research into early Quakers is revealing many people within the…See More
7th month 13
Kirby Urner posted a video

Happy Birthday Bucky

July 12 is Buckminster Fuller's birthday. Here's a "Quaker rant" to celebrate.
7th month 13
Windy Cooler updated their profile
7th month 11

© 2019   Created by QuakerQuaker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service