What if God is the boundless,
way of being here?***
What if the most important thing God is doing is
drawing my bounded way of being here
and new relationality?
What if faith in God means
how my bounded way of being here
seems indeed to be drawn toward
and new relationality
by this boundless way of being here,
What if faith in Jesus means
trusting how the story of his fully human life
newly enlivens us to be thus drawn
by this boundless way of being here?
What if this caught on as the most important way to think or speak of God—with everything else becoming more or less optional?
Would believers in God become more helpful and less hurtful to the rest of the world than they seem to be now?
That’s my wager: We would all be better off if more of us began to awaken trustfully to God in this way.****
*Uncontainably meaningful: I don’t mean “meaningful” as part of some tidy scheme that puts everything in its place. Uncontainable meaning subverts every cut-and-dried system of explanation (e.g., “it’s God’s will,” or “everything happens for a reason”). I don’t ignore devastating experiences of senselessness. Natural disasters and human atrocities call every attempt at meaning-making into question. But I must confess that, when things seem meaningless, I keep unexpectedly discovering deeper meaning to being here that is not contained by how things seem immediately. It shows up in my and others’ defiant refusals to let these moments define us. It doesn’t rescue me from naturally needing to grieve and rage against loss and suffering and senselessness. It’s an endless, sometimes devastating process. But it’s just as endlessly (“uncontainably”) worthwhile.
**Newly relational: As everything involved in being here seems to pass irrevocably, I awaken to the deeper meaning that everything involved in being here is newly relational. Everything passing enables new ways of relating to be here. What passes is past, yet it persists as a finished aspect of the novel relationality of being here. Novel relationality, itself uncontainably meaningful, gives continuing, uncontainable meaning to all that passes even in the face of death. (This is process thought in a nutshell.)
***According to the Bible, God is here uncontainably (Exodus 3:13-14; Psalm 139), renewing steadfast love “every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23), the uncontainably new beginning way and end of all things (Romans 11:36) in whom all of us live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Wherever else God may be, God is always newly here.
****That is the wager that creative Christian thinkers have been exploring since 1799, with the publication of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1958): “The usual conception of God as one single being outside of the world and behind the world is not the beginning and end of religion … The true nature of religion is neither this idea nor any other but immediate consciousness of the Deity as … found in ourselves and in the world. Similarly the goal and character of the religious life … is the immortality which we can now have in this temporal life … In the midst of finitude to be one with the Infinite and in every moment to be eternal is the immortality of religion.” (101). These creative Christian thinkers have called themselves by a variety of labels—liberal, neo-orthodox, existentialist, process-relational, post-liberal, postmodern, radically orthodox, etc.—but the general public simply calls them all liberal. After all, what else does one call a Christian who doesn’t seem to care much whether the Red Sea actually parted or whether water was ever turned into wine? While they often disagree on many details, they tend to agree on this: Whatever happens now, whatever may have happened long ago, what matters most is how our bounded ways of being here are being drawn toward uncontainable meaning and new relationality by the boundless way of being here, and this boundless way of being here is the one our ancestors aptly called God.