Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Forgiving God

I believe that we need to forgive God for not being the God we first imagined.

These words of mine echoed back to me from one of the final papers of a weekend spiritual formation course I recently taught. I had followed Henri Nouwen’s insight about forgiving other human beings for being unable to love us with the “perfect love” of God with my own view that we also need to forgive God for not being the God we were taught.

I thought about this just this morning while reflecting on a particular psalm’s view of God. The god of the psalmist was the one I had been taught but not the one I have come to believe in. While in other psalms my experience recognizes the psalmist’s inability to adequately comprehend God’s wondrous nature, the psalm I read this morning was a little too sure of who God is.

In the past weeks, I’ve re-read three unpublished novels I’ve written, and yesterday completed reading my earliest long fiction attempt, a 70-page novella begun in high school, completed in college, and polished for a course in seminary.  All but one of these works use some autobiographical elements, though played with, adjusted, or completely re-imagined.

But this flashback halfway through my novella Tommy actually happened: 
“You know who the tooth fairy is, don’t you, Tommy?” Peggy had just heard the amount the fairy had left for his tooth.

Tommy wanted to guess; he had some idea, but wasn’t sure. Some suspicion, that’s all.

“It’s your parents.”

“I know.” He had suspected, not known. He wished he hadn’t been told. Now that he knew, he made an easy connection between his parents and Santa Claus. They were Santa Claus as well. The fun was taken out of everything.

Tommy didn’t tell his parents his new knowledge right away, not wanting to hurt them. Destroying the myth his parents so fondly propagated might spoil his relationship with them. During a later argument, however, he used it as a weapon to hurt them in an undefinable way. Then, locking himself in the bathroom, he cried.
Many people think “destroying the myth” might spoil their relationship with God. Some have even used their knowledge of the myth to reject God altogether. Others try to “hurt” God in their anger at the misrepresentation.

I’ve experienced each option at one time or another.  Not only have I needed to forgive God for not being what I thought, I need to forgive myself for being inadequate to the task of “capturing” God.


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