I talk about God a lot. I don’t tend to go into detail, but often my blog posts begin, end, or otherwise hinge on the existence of a higher power.
This has the potential to alienate people, I know. Maybe it feels like I’m appropriating -- using spiritual or religious language that I haven’t totally comprehended. Maybe some of you incorporate God more systematically, wholeheartedly, religiously. But if I have the potential to irritate believers, I could have the same effect on agnostics or atheists. My tendency to infuse “the God thing” where, perhaps, a materialist answer does exist - if only I paused to discover it - could get sorta old. Do I just rope in God when it’s convenient? Do I integrate God for the same reasons I avoid soy - this sort of half-baked feeling that it’s the right thing to do?
If I do that, it poses a philosophical problem. In my introductory philosophy classes, even the skeptics agreed that, if God existed, he couldn’t be just sort of important. He couldn’t be a meek middle manager type - you know, the kind who sends out passive aggressive emails, gets little authority boners, and reads word-for-word off his own powerpoint slides. God is either everything, or he is nothing.
(And yes, let’s talk about pronouns. Pronouns are hard to avoid. Just know that when I say “He,” I do indeed picture a tall caucasian man with a snowy white beard, sitting upon a gilded thrown in the clouds. Just above airplane level, right where it’s safe to use your electronic devices. That’s what I picture, as I’m sure you do, too.)
I understand that God can’t just be a convenient addition to my existing ideology. And yet, my behavior doesn’t always reflect that. When I was in Sunday school as a kid, the topic of using God as a “vending machine” came up. “You can’t just go to God when you want something,” advised the teacher. “God is your friend. What kind of friendship would that be if you only went to God when you needed something?”
Ok, fair, but I’m also eight. And God is suddenly super-duper relevant when a simple, expedient prayer is the difference between the ice cream truck turning down our block or driving right past.
To this day, I am guilty of going to God when I need something. I’m less apt to pray for the ice cream truck, but I do tend to go to God more often when I’m at my wit’s end. When I am faced with my own powerlessness, and when one more pro/con list would tip me into arthritic territory. When I am supremely, unfathomably tired of myself, tired of my old solutions. My brain says, “Yoo-hoo, Anna, look over here! A new diet! A new relationship! A new job! That'll fix it!" God chuckles appreciatively: “It's all very shiny, isn't it?"
On certain days, I can and do assign characteristics to God. God wouldn’t want X for me. X isn’t aligned with God’s will. God’s will is my parents’, my sponsor’s, and my best friend’s will, combined. Given that they often have competing opinions, this can be confusing, a real mixed message. Maybe God is more a middle manager than I thought.
On other days, God is nothing more or less than everything I don't know. On those days, “give it up to God” translates to: “Just give it up.” When we’re exhausting ourselves, working needlessly uphill, “give it up” is, in itself, a good reminder. It's true even if it the guy in the clouds can’t hear us at all.