[See Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4]
If people destroy something irreplaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable make by God they are called developers.Joseph Wood Krutch (quoted in David R Loy, Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis, p. 16)
You may be wondering why I am banging on about this at such length. Why does it matter that God is “not an alien will but an affirming source”?
[See Parts 1, 2, & 3]
When God is “an alien will” I may feel the pressure to make amends for the mistakes of the past and to work towards an improved self in the future. When God is an alien will there is a to-do list.
[See Part 1& Part 2]
… yielding …
When we are freed from the idea of God as “an alien will” we can fall back into an utterly relaxing Presence that is our “affirming source”. The alien will is jealous and requires attention and conformity to an arbitrary set of standards. The affirming source is not alien, not demanding, not jealous because we are what it is. We do not have to do anything to earn this. We do not have to work for it. There is no rivalry.
… yielding not to an alien will but an affirming source …
The trouble with an alien will is that it is … alien, other. How can I know, respond to, and, in time, love something that is so far from and other than me? I will look outside myself, beyond this life, to another realm to know who to be and what to do. Then I am separated, as it were, from myself. Separation slips into anxiety: What is required of me to be acceptable, good enough, holy enough for God? How can I be more like God? I am in a catch-22 situation because I can never know the answers to these questions if God is alien.
Christians are adopted into a dependent relationship to that which Jesus called ‘Abba, Father’. Our human identity therefore becomes one in which we both acknowledge in prayer this dependence and respond to the gift that sets up not only our being but our renewed being in Christ; and in acknowledging that dependence we are empowered to ‘do the work of God’, to be ‘in Christ’, as St Paul puts it. It’s about an authority that emerges from yielding not to an alien will but an affirming source– recognising that we are here because there is an act that draws us into being and affirms our being. So we do not have to be our own origin; we do not have to try to be self-creators. There is a level of affirmation bringing us into, and holding us in existence, which we do not have to work for. … [We] are empowered, emancipated, to use the transforming energy we can exercise by acknowledging our dependence upon an unconditional source of affirmation.Rowan Williams: Being Human, p.72–3 (my emphasis)
I love Rowan Williams’ writing, though I find it frustrating at times because I am too impatient for the dénouement. The opening pages clear the ground, set the scope, and dispel misconceptions. I want to know where we are going. Are we there yet, Rowan?
I keep returning to The Blessing that was given to me a couple of years ago. I see it as is a tectonic shift in image and attitude: from a god that is demanding, jealous, that needs to be appeased, to which we have to prove ourselves; to God whose Body is this world (and each creature in it), who made us to be free to enjoy the pleasure of simply being alive, the God whose quality is overwhelming generosity.
Winning and losing doesn’t matter. It’s about making something beautiful and surprising.
So says the character, Kimi Muroyama, in the Australian film, Paper Planes, which I have watched a couple of times with my younger daughter, Esther. The film is about an international competition to see who can make a paper plane fly the furthest. It is also about loss, letting go, and finding new life.
It is Saturday morning. There is nothing I have to do – or nothing urgent. I sit at the open window in my pyjamas with the sunshine, the trees now in full leaf, the early morning birdsong, the air touching my face. This is what I want to do. This is how I want life to be always: nothing I have to do. I feel my upper chest relax, right into my shoulder joints, as I allow the truth and trust of this fully to sink in. Though it is my ritual upon waking to sit here, to pray and meditate, I don’t feel the need to do something ‘spiritual’. I want to sit and look out of the window and do nothing (except for the mostly unnoticed actions that occur autonomically: respiration, blood flow, peristalsis: this body is a dynamic system that does not rest – until it does).
Every day I write 750 words, sometimes more, never less, though on some days I can’t be bothered to engage and I have been known to cheat by typing the same words over and again.
Writing requires me to dig deeper into myself, which also requires (and is the same as) connecting with You. I cannot write words worth my while if I am not connected to myself-and-You, but it involves letting go of control of the flow of my thinking, and waiting. It is not in my gift to create. You are the Creator. On my best days, I am a carefully crafted but empty cup into which You drop a coin, freshly-minted and bright.