The God Who Stoops

johannes-plenio-652159-unsplash

In discussing the advance of women’s rights, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often remarked that when we set women on a pedestal, we actually lock them in a cage.

I’ve been wondering lately whether the same could be said about God.  (And even more so, Heavenly Mother.)  When we consign our Heavenly Parents to a throne of glory in the distant heavens, we’re actually locking them behind human constructs of divinity.  We’re building a wall of checkpoints and purity standards, then barring all we deem unholy or unclean from approaching their mercy.

Our all-to-common vision of God on a celestial pedestal gets it all backwards. To borrow a phrase from Rachel Held Evans’s latest book Inspired: our God stoops.

Our God sent Christ to work as a humble carpenter and walk in mucky streets, then die as a condemned criminal on the cross.

Our God does not hesitate to abandon a tranquil pasture and wrestle with thornbushes to aid a lost sheep.

Our God lives in our dirt and our pain and our sickness and our tears.  Our God sits with us in our confusion and our questions and our doubts.

Our Heavenly Parents are neither too sacred to talk about nor too holy for “unworthy” sinners to approach.

A few months ago, a friend on Facebook (I honestly don’t remember who) posted a simple reflection that has haunted me ever since:

Why would I believe in a God who is less loving than me?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?  (Matthew 7:11)

If I, a loud and arrogant and selfish woman, know how to occasionally display warm, welcoming, and inclusive love — shouldn’t I be able to imagine a God who offers at least ten times that?  That’s a single order of magnitude I can at least begin to comprehend.  (In reality, God’s love is infinite.)

I’ve served on many a Relief Society deep-cleaning brigade for families in crisis.  Would not our ever-loving God likewise embrace the clutter, disorder, and filth of our lives?

I’ve hugged many a disheveled friend sporting tanktops, bra straps peeking out. Would not our ever-loving God likewise cherish emotional connections over “modesty?”

I’ve held many a deep philosophical conversation over happy hours, where I sip lemonade while my colleagues sip beer. Would not our ever-loving God likewise delight in joining us on a bar stool to discuss the mysteries of life?

I’ve attended many a discussion, passionately and even “contentiously” debating policies and points.  I’ve watched those debates lead to empathy, expanded perspectives, inspiration, and change.  Would not our ever-loving God likewise engage in active listening and invite constructive dissent?

I’ve invited many an LGBT friend into my home.  Would not our ever-loving God likewise welcome all with open arms into his heavenly mansions?

If even I in the service of others can manage to set aside judgment and material trappings and instead sit with kindred souls in their laughter and pain, why would I envision a God who does not do the same?  Maybe the “highest law” of them all is that our Heavenly Parents care not a whit about “higher laws.”  Christ did, after all, descend below all things to offer us infinite love.  Are we greater than He?

As a child I learned to pray to an abstract God on a throne in the heavens, a God who scared me, a God I constantly worried condemned me for small acts of disobedience or imperfection or non-conformity.  My relationship radically changed when I started envisioning my Heavenly Parents as friendly grandparents who light up every time I visit, who happily feast on my slightly burnt cookies, and who surprise-jump out of rotting piles of fall leaves to give me hugs.  I believe in a God who stoops to the level of each and every soul who seeks Him.

*Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Comments

  1. emilyhgeddes says:

    Beautiful, Carolyn. I especially love the last paragraph. What a perfect image! Thank you.

  2. I no longer hold an active belief in deity, but this made me tear up. What a beautiful concept of god.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    I believe in a God who drives a Roto-Rooter truck.

    Whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, all of us have lives that are at least sometimes like a stopped up septic tank. Our savior shows up with his hip waders, does the cleanup work, and helps us be better in the future.

  4. I suspect that a lot of people don’t believe in God because of a misunderstanding of what God’s nature is. They say “If there really is a God” (in the way they want God to behave) “then He would never allow X to happen.”
    Gaining a personal testimony, and a personal relationship, is critical to happiness.

  5. Amen to this. God’s glory is revealed most brilliantly in his humanity.

  6. Thank you, Carolyn. I will especially remember your fine phrase about “consign[ing] our Heavenly Parents to a throne of glory.”

    Consign: to commit to a final destination or fate.For example: “a writer consigned to oblivion”; “consign a body to a grave”

    Inheriting a throne of glory is no enticement to heaven, at least not for me. I’m suspicious of anyone who is interested in that kind of inheritance. To be like God means to live always in love. Your post beautifully describes the places where we find love, and none of them involves a throne.

  7. Not a Cougar says:

    Thank you. I struggle deeply to understand why God doesn’t seem to stoop down and poke His nose in often enough. I know (and have made) all the arguments about the sanctity of agency and learning lessons and humans being the main vessel through which He acts and being called home early and preparation for becoming like Him (and, and, and), but I still find it hard sometimes to accept an all-powerful God who lets so much evil, pain, and suffering happen to so many innocent people we are told He loves above all else. But I still keep trying to understand.

  8. Jader3rd, is that actually true? Is God so arrogant in his ways that he cannot help even an atheist to find happiness and possibly stoop to their level of understanding and offer His love? Can God not help an unbeliever even if he doesn’t have the faith to believe? Why do we put words in Gods mouth and say things as if they are true of God? Is it so difficult to be able to understand how God could aid an atheist in happiness without needing the praise? If I can secretly give charity, I believe, so can God. So even an atheist, who doesn’t have a personal relationship or testimony can indeed find happiness and even “true happiness”.

  9. Nicely said. “Our all-to-common vision of God on a celestial pedestal gets it all backwards.” I hope that God is there, and I’m especially inspired to try to be the kind of person that shows a welcoming and inclusive love.

  10. Sandra, I don’t view happiness as something that God doles out, and is restricted to those whom God deigns worthy. I believe that happiness is what it is, and God has learned how it’s achieved. He reveals to His prophets how we need to change such that we can truly experience lasting and eternal happiness. God isn’t denying it from anyone, people are choosing to not change themselves to make themselves available for its fullness. It’s not God’s arrogance, it’s ours. In the spirit of my earlier comment, it may be due to being misinformed about what God’s actual advice on the matter is, is what is the root cause of the problem. But at some point (in this life or the next), everyone will have a chance to learn what God is actually counselling.
    Not a Cougar; I’m right there with you. It sure would be nice to see God intervening more than what I see.

  11. east of the mississippi says:

    I have been out wanderin’
    I have traveled far
    One conclusion I have made
    Is God don’t own a car

    He don’t wear no fancy clothes
    He’d rather take the bus
    He would pay air tourist fare
    So He could sit with us

    He don’t have no tambourine
    Guitar or slide trombone
    The music we make here on Earth
    But the words are His own

    And when we finally reach His home
    And walk among the stars
    He’ll join our band then we’ll understand
    Why God don’t own a car

    J. Buffett

  12. I don’t think God sent us here because we were supposed to learn how it all makes sense, They sent us here so we could learn how to love and care for each other. They intervene as they see fit and as we approach, but if we are to learn love, it can happen only through our own garbeled efforts, it cannot be created in us, it can only be opened to us, otherwise it would be programming and not love. Christ’s grace is sufficient. As for Heavenly Mother, I pray to Her, and I have felt her arms around my heart, and as for Heavenly Father, I pray to Him I have felt his light to my feet. It sure is a mess here though, right? Good thing that the light and the dark are the same to God, whither thou goest. (Psalm 139, right?) I love this post, I think the church will have a hard penance for the boundaries it sets on God’s love, but God is still in it… God just let us get away with some real doozies. God is at the helm, they are just letting us steer, (thank you Father and Mother – for moving with less sense than care). and J. Buffet… that poem is magnificent!

  13. Sure Heavenly Father can give charity secretly. He can extend His love to an atheist. He can help them find happiness. But to be honest, do you really think an atheist would accept such love and happiness from a being in whom they do not believe?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.