Every child has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does Anything weird,
But the God who knows only 4 words.
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come Dance with Me , come dance.”
I lost the desire to dance with God around the 100th time I was kicked out of Sunday School for arguing with my teacher. I think he just liked to argue, and I always went for the bait. I argued for women in the pulpit, gay rights, evolution – you name the conservative hot button issue, and I was arguing against it in Sunday School. We had a routine – my Sunday School teacher and I – he would make an outrageous conservative comment, and I would argue. We would get fired up until he had enough and kicked me out into the hallway. Somehow he always managed to find me after the service to pat me on the back and let me know that he loved me, even though I was a liberal pussy. And, I believe that he did truly care for me, I just wanted nothing more to do with his God. It had gotten to the point where my questioning heart could not reconcile God with the conservative ideals that masqueraded as God.
As a result, I spent all of my college years and most of my 20′s being angry at The Church until I realized that the God that I had once known was not bound to political ideals. The God I had once known still loved me. The God I had once known was wedging a tiny crack into my hardened, cynical heart. I found God in music – in the spaces between me and the audience, or me and the conductor, or me and my fellow choir members – where she takes up residence. I saw God in the hopeful lives of gay friends who lived proudly, of addicts who found a way out of the abyss, of students who believed in their potential. I finally let God back in with a whole-hearted “maybe” after years of shutting God out. And, man, did I feel super enlightened. . .
until a recent conversation with Mom. We were in the car, which is where most of our great conversations happen, and I was telling her about one of my genius friends who does cardiovascular research. Mom, being a retired nurse, was loving the medical talk until it got to a point where the science was beyond her comprehension. Suddenly, she got all twinkly and full of wonder as she said, “I just think that God has to be in that research. I mean, there is no other explanation for why the molecules in the heart heal other than God.” I gave her one of my looks, and because she knows me too well, she geared up for a debate.
“Sure there is an explanation as to why heart muscles heal, and why certain molecules can change. Just because you and I do not understand the science does not mean that there is not an explanation for it. Same with sunsets. I hate when people see a sunset and think that just because they can’t explain it, it must be God. There is almost always an explanation for scientific “wonders.” I don’t think we should use them as our basis for finding God. I think that God is really found in stories of hope and forgiveness and reconciliation. God is in our experiences, not in things we just don’t understand.”
“Hmmmph,” she said, “I guess I’ve never thought of it that way.”
I felt super smart for about five seconds, and then I felt like a total jackass. Just because I have found God through experiences does not mean that I had any right to belittle Mom for finding God in creation. I was basically just like my Sunday School teacher. I had scoffed at Mom’s story, belittled her, and kicked her out of the conversation because we think differently. I felt God in that moment, but this time she was rolling her eyes at me for being so pompous. I heard her say to me, “Oh honey, let your Mom’s ideas open your eyes to me. The stories, the wonder, the science – I am in all of those things. All of them.”
You see, this is where so many of us get it all wrong. We cut each other down and kick each other out of conversations when we can not reconcile our differences. We do not have to agree, in fact, debates can be healthy when we use them as an opportunity for growth. When our debates turn into petty arguments though, we are really missing out on God. The truth is that no one experiences God the same way. We could all really learn from each other if we stopped trying to be right about God and just listened to each other’s stories. We can do better. We must do better.
This is not an empty “let’s just get along” plea. This is a plea for more of a namaste-ish “The God in my story of forgiveness sees the God in your wonder of creation.”
Even more than that – this is a plea for more of “The God in my story of forgiveness welcomes the God in your wonder of creation.”
God does not care who wins the debate.
God calls us to love.
God calls us to dance.
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