(This is the second part in a series. Click the links to read the rest of the series: One – Going Back to the Beginning, Three – The Wrong God, Four – Stepping Stones and a Crossroads, Five – Of Simmering, Resting, and Labels, Six – He Is Not a Tame Lion, and Seven – Letters to the Wounded from the Wounded.)
The rodeo cowgirl enters the ring, levitating between two horses gliding around the ring. Her left foot in the left horse’s right stirrup and right foot in the right horse’s left stirrup, at full gallop, somehow she leaps…the audience holds their breath… and lands, one foot on each horse’s back. The horses’ feet pump in perfect rhythm, backs rising and falling in sync with one another, as the acrobat stands, perfectly balanced..
As I have written previously, after throwing everything in my faith out and starting over, I eventually settled in my mind that a Divine Being, a Prime Mover, a First Cause is the best explanation for the origin, beauty, and function of the world and the universe around it.
But once there, I discovered I had a long way to go to get to the God of the Bible.
I’m stuck between two horses,one foot in the stirrup of each. But I’m no cowgirl. And these horses run at different paces and sometimes in different directions. I’m clinging tightly to anything I can grab hold of, stretched to the breaking point at times, sometimes dangling upside down choking on dust with my head dangerously close to the dirt.
One horse is the comfortable religious faith and practice I’ve always found myself in, and in which our family is now: reformed, Calvinist-ish, full confidence in the Bible as inspired by God, etc. This horse is mostly predictable, but not completely.
And one horse is the uncomfortable not knowing anything for sure beyond the existence of God. It is wild at one moment and almost still the next.
I ride them both, waiting for enough something to guide me to commit to one horse or the other. Or maybe to another mount altogether.
How do you learn about a Divine Being, exactly? I am convinced a Prime Mover or a First Cause exists, but is he/she/it knowable?
I can deduce a few things by observation. This being can create and design intricate systems from beyond the largest scale we can imagine down to a smaller scale than we can imagine. A universe and a virus — what complex and fascinating things!
This being loves beauty. And sees beauty in variety, not in sameness. Why else would we see hundreds or thousands of varieties of tree, flower, animal, and persons?
But that kind of being, while intimately acquainted with everything, seems rather too large and truly awesome to actually know.
So how can so many people seem to know God? How do they know they know God, the real and true Divine Being, not one of their own imagination?
So, I’ve placed my foot in the stirrup of this horse of not knowing but searching for answers to the question, “What do we know about God, and how do we know it?” I have read spiritual memoirs, talked with friends of many spiritual stripes, studied theologies, studied criticisms of those theologies, and tried to sift through the myriad interpretations and personifications of the divine.
Some are beautiful. Some are bizarre. Some are approachable. Some are frightening.
But I have not yet found for myself the quiet confidence I admire in so many.
At the same time, my other foot is firmly fastened into the other horse’s stirrup. I am a wife and mother in a practicing Christian (Protestant) family. When all this started, my husband was a leader in our church, and we both had many responsibilities. Having a Type A (uber-responsible) personality, I couldn’t possibly walk away from that and leave people hanging. And I couldn’t tell anyone.
Today, we attend a new church, and I don’t feel so much pressure to hide behind a mask of complete confidence. I’m listening, asking questions, talking to women who I respect.
But my kids are also listening, asking questions, and watching. I often hear myself answering questions the way I’m supposed to but without confidence in the answers. Some day, maybe already, they will hear that.
It really does feel like I’m in a rodeo. I’m riding two horses that sometimes try to head in two very different directions. I’m trying to avoid being thrown, trampled, breaking my neck, while looking for the stepping stones, the missing links between a Divine Being I don’t know much about and a God who revealed himself in the Bible. I hope it exists. I think I have pieces of it… but not enough to hold together on their own yet.
Have you found the stepping stones? How did you do it?