A God I Can Believe In
by Ann Woldt
I don’t believe in God.
Certainly not the god of my childhood, the unpredictable capricious god that promises unconditional love yet damns some of his creations to hell, the god who claims intimate control over all things yet lets innocent children die, the god who claims to offer us free will yet imposes his will on our actions. No, I don’t believe in this god.
If I were to believe in God she would have to be like this: She would have to be like a kindly grandmother, smelling faintly of lavender and talcum. And, having created the heavens and the earth and all the planets and stars and all of infinity, she would be sitting back in her comfortable chair, watching over it, from a distance. She has arms and a lap large enough, wide enough, to take in all her creation, to embrace us, comfort us, console us, to love us totally and wholly, without reservation, without condition, without consideration of who we are or what we look like or what we’ve done or not done while on her beloved earth.
And she would grieve. She would wonder why it is that, after granting us wisdom and intellect and the ability to reason, our old men in suits would conspire to send our young people to war, to kill or be killed, to come home maimed and broken, or not come home at all. She would ask why it is that we let some people starve, while others are overindulged; why some people have shelter, have homes so large they can become lost in them, who have so many homes they lose count while others struggle to survive the night without cover. She would question why old white men tell young women how to control their bodies, how they should dress, how they should bear children, how they should live their lives. Do they not understand that just as she gave those men brains and hearts and minds so did she give them to the young women they seek to control? She would embrace the sick, the suffering, comfort them in her arms, assure them that they are loved, even while those around them are repelled by their presence.
And she would say, “Don’t you see what you are doing? You are able to shoot rockets into space and send your comrades away from the surface of the earth, where they can look back and see your tiny orb. You’ve seen how fragile and delicate your world is…yet you continue to dig too deep, to despoil its surface, to drain it of resources! You see how small your earth is, set there in the vastness of the universe. You see how few you are, how precious each bit of life is, yet you still try to destroy each other. Don’t you understand that your earth is the only earth you have, your life is the only life you have, and once they are destroyed, there will be nothing left? Don’t you see that you must not have dominion over the earth, but instead be a steward of it?” Her tears would fill the oceans that envelop the earth.
And she would rejoice. She would celebrate the birth of every living thing, the awakening of each cell as it reaches toward the light and the warmth, unfurling and growing and developing and forming new life. She would be with parents as they embrace their young, in awe at their perfect-ness; be with the gardener as she discovers the small pale shoots pushing through the snow; be with the young couple who discover love in each other and in their passion discover every crease, every dimple, every hair, every beauty mark – they’re all beauty marks when there is love! – in their partner; be with the old couple who have spent their lives toiling and struggling and saving and grieving and loving and despairing and now in their ancientness awaiting their end, yet still love each other, still wake in the morning looking to their side to see their beloved in the bed beside them.
And she would say, “It is not my will! It is not my will that good people die young. It is not my will that people who have done nothing wrong, who have done good things, who have loved and cared and paid attention still die, while people who have done evil continue to live and harm you. It is not my will that young men with broken minds and spirits break into schools and slaughter innocent children. It is not my will that young mothers decide that loving their children is too hard and drive them into lakes to die. It is not my will that you use religion as a barrier between you, that in the name of your gods you fly planes into buildings and destroy lives, that you send bombs to lands far from yours to destroy cities, that you withhold love and care from each other because they look differently, act differently, dress differently, believe differently than your neighbors. It is not my will that some of you will go through life strong and healthy and others will struggle for each breath, struggle to move, struggle to think and learn. Those that tell you “it is god’s will” do not know of what they speak, and know not how to comfort you.
I grieve with you, my beloved children, but I tell you this:
From the moment you are born, you are destined to die. The only predictable thing there is in all creation is this: all living things will die. I cannot tell you when, or how, or why. I do not control its coming to you. I only tell you that, as you struggle to emerge from the womb that has embraced you, struggle to breathe your first breath of air, so shall you begin to die.”
And she would say, “My beloved children, I grieve with you. I wail with you as you wail in the night, mourning your loss. Your lamentations wound my heart, your cries pierce my ears, your tears wash over me. I can only tell you this: Those who you grieve are here with me, embraced in my love, warm and protected, healed and soothed, and shall be waiting for you when your time comes. Your children, your young soldiers, your spouses, your brothers and sisters, your mothers and fathers, your friends, they are here. And also here are the broken souls who have done horrific things, have harmed you, cheated on you, abused you, stolen from you; stolen not just your material things but a piece of your heart. For even they are my beloved. Even they are loved, and cherished, and here they shall be healed”
And she would say, “I ask nothing of you, my beloved. I demand nothing of you. I have created you and have given you knowledge, and encouraged you to love and share and be generous, and I am watching you, but how you live is your choice. You must decide. Your living and your dying is in my realm; how you spend the time between those cataclysmic events is in your realm.
Just know that, when you breathe your last, when the last glimmer of light fades from your eyes, when your soul, your essence, that small particle of beingness that defines you from all others escapes your broken body and moves into the air, I shall be here, ready to embrace you, to love you, for all time, for all of eternity.”
This is a god I could believe in. May it be so.
Ann Woldt lives in rural Wisconsin on 15 acres of land, some of which she and her husband of 43 years, Ralph, have restored to native prairie. Ann has been a UU for 40 years, and a member of CLF for the last 13.
What do you think?
Overall, very helpful and enjoyable. However, I did not like the reference to the woman who drove into the lake with her two small children. It has turned out that the woman was sexually abused by her father over a long period of time, and we now know that child sex abuse of that magnitude causes a host of aftereffects, many of which involve symptoms that arise from having one's own children.
Wow! Profoundly moving. Thank you. Printed out to read and re-read and re-read. So elloquently put. Thank you, Ann.
I would believe in the god as you describe Ann. This is my kind of god, too!