Archive for the ‘Human’ Category

God’s Dilemma

October 7, 2017

Everytime I read the story of Moses, the slaves, the Egyptians and the parting of the sea- if I read with expectation and anticipation- there is something new in the story.

 

Read it again, read it as if for the first time  Exodus 13:17-14:31.

What do you notice?

The last time I read this, I noticed the pillar and cloud at first leads the people who will become Israel (will become- because at this point in the story they are a bunch of refugees) out, away from bondage into an unknown future. They have been redeemed- bought and brought out of slavery into a yet to be created future.

Once they are on the shore of the sea, there are two impossible choices. They can walk into the sea or they can stay and wait for the Egyptian army.  Sometimes in life none of our choices are good ones.  Sometimes our choice is between two lousy options.

In the story the pillar moves from in front of the people to behind them, in between the people who will be Israel and the Egyptian army.  The pillar stays there all night. “Bringing darkness to one side and light to the other side”. Which side received the darkness and which the light?

I wonder why the pillar moves and stays between the two groups.  To protect the people who will be Israel? Probably. But I also wonder if God in the pillar also had a word for Egypt.

  “You don’t have to do this.”

 “You can stop right here.”

 “You can turn around and leave.”

 “No one has to die tomorrow.”

“My choosing of these people doesn’t mean I reject you. My choosing of these people doesn’t have to mean your destruction. Beloved, turn around.”

Who waited in the light and who waited in the darkness? Could the Egyptian army have been held in the light?

God chose the people who will become Israel but that choosing of them doesn’t have to mean the rejection, the destruction of others. In fact, God tells Abraham he is the one through whom the rest of the world will be blessed. He is blessed so that he and his descendants can be a blessing to others.

At the same time, God doesn’t compel or force. The people who will become Israel and the people who are the Egyptian army both have a choice to make.

 

I once hear a rabbi ask, “Who is the most tragic figure in the Bible?”  (I wrote about this ten years ago, here and here.)

Who would you say?

His answer was God. Because God never gets what God wants, and God never gets what God deserves. But why doesn’t God get what God wants and deserves?

I wonder if because God decided to be God with and for and through us, that means that God sometimes ends up with two impossible choices?  Egypt or the people who will be Israel?

Do the choices we make leave God with limited options? What if the Egyptian army stopped their pursuit?  What would God have done? What could God have done with that decision?

What if the people who will be Israel didn’t step into the sea? What would God done?

God can do whatever God wants, but if God’s decision was to give us true freedom and choice, didn’t God limit God’s own self?  When we relate to another in freedom, we don’t have complete control over them. When we love another, we don’t want to control them.  So I wonder, do the choices we make, the choices I make leave God with limited options?  What do you think?

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God’s Holy Detachment- part two

August 5, 2017

So as my friend asked, does God practice holy detachment? I have had to think about this for a while. My first reaction was to say no, because that seemed like abandonment to me. ( see my discussion of detachment, here) I don’t believe God walks away from us. Ever. On the other hand, God doesn’t micromanage us either. As I spent time thinking about holy detachment, it seemed a helpful way for me to think about how God may be at work in the world.

Many Christians – myself included- believe that God does not coerce us. God doesn’t force God’s will upon us. God does not manipulate us. God gives us the ability to make choices. We have real decisions to make and we have real choices. We, and others, are affected the the consequences of the choices we make.

The doesn’t mean that God doesn’t prefer us to make some decisions rather than others. And certainly, God offers suggestions – through prayer, through the Bible, through the actions and ideas of other people.

But God does give us space. Space to encounter God. Space to wrestle with God (and ourselves). And space to ignore God. That’s the detachment piece. God cares deeply about the outcome and about us, but gives us the space, the room to make our own decisions.  With God the “space” isn’t empty. In that space between God’s desires for us and what we might do, in that space, is where the Spirit resides. I think, if we are willing, we can act more and more in conjunction with God’s will. We can live increasingly open and attuned to God’s presence.

On the other hand, God is not manipulative or unhealthily enabling. We are given the space to fail. We can fail, but we are never abandoned.

To quote Irenaeus, “The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God” (Against Heresies, Book 4, 20:7) Holy detachment creates a relationship that is a loving beholding, between the fully alive human and fully present God.


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