God Isn’t Here
Thunder, wind, and hail woke us up about 3:00 am last night. At the kind command of my wife, I got out of bed, stumbled downstairs, and got online to check for any tornado warnings. Severe thunderstorms, but nothing else.
As I settled back down, my wife directed my attention to the alarm clock, which she’d noticed was flashing due to a momentary power outage.
“You need to reset the alarm,” she yawned. Silently I concurred, and I realized then that I’d forgotten to set it before initially going to bed. Thank the gods of lightening.
I reset the time and the set the clock to wake us in three hours. Then I decided I needed a drink of water before attempting to sleep with hail pounding against our windows.
While sipping my drink in the kitchen, I thought about what Andrew Hackman calls “God moments,” those everyday occurrences in which people of religious faith see the hand of God ordering and directing things according to his will. I entertained the night’s excitement in that vein: I’d forgotten to set my alarm, God wanted us to wake up at 6:00 am, and so he’d sent an electrical surge, momentarily cutting off our house’s power so as to get my attention. That’s actually about how I would have interpreted the event back in my more pious days.
Unlike Hackman, I remain a person of religious faith, but like him, I have no use for thinking about my life in terms of “God moments.” I’m not Bette Midler, mind you, singing God watches us from a distance, but nor am I your traditionally-minded believer who approaches the almighty chiefly in terms of power. Darkness, emptiness, nothingness, brokenness, otherness–these are the words in which I hear the silent Word. Unconditional love–this is where I encounter something otherwise than my own being.
I’ll leave it to others to brush for God’s fingerprints on every close call, prayerful decision, natural disaster, unspeakable crime, and foreseeable snakebite. It’s all baseless speculation in my book. One can never really know whether one’s prayers have been heard or answered. God moments? I’d call them illusions of control. Things work out in the way we like and we assume it’s because God intervened. Well, maybe. I can’t prove otherwise, but then that’s hardly suggestive, is it?
To be fair, I have no more certainty that God can be found in the lowliness of existence. I may only be deceiving myself, under my own spell, fooled by my own illusions. You could say I have my own sort of “God moments,” but these, I hasten to say, are subversive occasions of uncertainty and unknowing that leave me dizzy and disorientated. I mean, really: “God moments” should never be comforting and decipherable, not if God is anything approximate to what all the prophets, priests, and theologians have said God is.
We had a violent thunderstorm last night. That’s all I know.