I accidentally wrote something more poetic for a theological reflection paper for my Life of Prayer class. I decided to share it because this reflection surprised me in many ways. Thankful for a seminary that helps me process in this way.
As a small child, I understood God to be like a seed planted in fertile soil. As I grew in my understanding of the Divine, so the Divine’s presence in my life grew up like a flower reaching to the sky for sunlight. Maybe God is a flower.
As a young adult in college, I understood God to be an overbearing, abusive parent, always telling me what to do and where to go, and if I did not do something right, I would be punished. Sometimes, bad things would happen just because God willed those things to happen and humanity simply had to deal with it. Maybe god is an ogre waiting to smite me?
One but not both of these perspectives can be true, I think, depending on how one chooses to experience the Divine, with a God that looks like the worst of humanity or a God that looks like the best in humanity—and maybe even in all living things we interact with each day. Through prayer over the course of these ten weeks, maybe I have caught a glimpse of the God who is a seed, the God who is alive and active in this world in all iterations and religions. We may all have a different understanding of how to approach this living, breathing Being, but so many come to the Divine expecting something. Perhaps I came expecting that the seed that grew into a flower as I grew up would remain so and that it would not become the Divine as an ogre my Church had promised me they would be.
Maybe that is a fairytale to hope that. But maybe, as I prayed the daily offices and recited prayers to the Divine, maybe the Divine presence can grow alongside my spirit once again. Maybe I cannot see the forest for the trees as the saying goes, but I think I have caught a glimpse of the Divine in each classmate spending time in prayer with me. Maybe I have caught a glimpse of the Divine in myself. If the Apostle Paul who once quoted some poets in Acts can say: “For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’” (Acts 18:28) I think I can say that too.
Maybe God is a seed, a seed that once watered, grows with me as I grow into my calling, my sense of belonging in this world and with other people. Maybe God is a seed, a seed that grows into a tree that reaches its branches towards the sky. Maybe God is a seed. Or maybe God is a flower. Maybe, God is a tree.
And if God is a tree, with roots reaching deep into the earth, with branches growing out over the ground, roots spreading out as far as they can, maybe God does not have to be a fairytale of a world I hope to see. Maybe if God is a tree, this world I hope to see can be one I create. Not in isolation with God but in connection with community as we all seek the Divine in our lives and within ourselves.
Is God a seed? Or a flower? Or maybe God is an ogre waiting to smite me. Maybe God is a tree waiting to grow up to the heavens with me. I cannot say for certain what God is like but I can say what I have experienced of God and prayer. Perhaps God is many things to many people in many places throughout all time. If we are willing to look closely enough, that may surprise us and change us for the better. If God is a tree, a living, growing, breathing thing I can engage with, then maybe God can help me create a world where we are all connected to this Divine being regardless of where we come from.
Maybe, just maybe God is all of these things and more and refuses to be pinned down by our conceptions of Them. Maybe God is waiting for us to arrive at a place where we can see God in all that is around us and if we can see God in all of these things, we can dream of a world where all people and creatures are cherished and loved and cared for. Maybe God is waiting for us to arrive. And once we are there, we can share in a world where there is Love. Maybe, just maybe God is love.