View from above

No matter how blurred or undefined my picture of God is, no matter how my connection to religion swells or retreats; the one God-related belief I hold fairly dear is omniscience. If God were a storyteller, let’s say, he’d be third person with both a bird’s eye and a worm’s eye view of all that ever was and all that ever is and all that ever will be.

Which means, I also believe, that God laughs a lot.

Laughs at our missteps, our confusion, our despair — in a loving, playful way, the way a parent might smile watching her toddler fall hard on his bottom over and over again in his attempts to learn to walk.

Or the way a writer foolishly grins as he shapes his characters because a writer is, in a way, in love with all the characters he creates — no matter how ugly or beautiful, how wise or how foolish.

I don’t necessarily believe that God is omnipotent, however. I don’t believe he interferes in the doings of man, though I do imagine that he might adjust the direction or speed of the wind from time to time so that man might meaningfully turn his head or shift his gaze. I believe that God watches us, and more than anything else concrete, I understand God as a representation of that great unattainable knowledge and understanding I’ll never have, but will never stop seeking.

I imagine, too, from his third person point of view, God watches us with great compassion.

I wish I could borrow some of this compassion from time to time when I tell myself my own story; as I do when I lie in bed at night and review my day; as I do when I tell “truths” about myself or make claims about how other people see me (as if I could really know).

Or when I dig through the first person evidence of my life: When I read my old journals (and cringe at my naive innocence or unabashed immaturity); or remember (out of the blue or obsessively) the things I’ve done I wish I hadn’t or wish I had handled differently.

Did you ever notice how much compassion we can summon up for others? For strangers especially? How our hearts swell when someone else is dwelling on what they once did wrong?

Yet, it’s insanely difficult — if not near impossible — to summon up that same compassion for ourselves. To allow ourselves to view our stories as God might or as the third person omniscient narrator would– minus regret, minus shame, minus fear — simply with close observation, the space for varied interpretations, and occasionally, with a playful compassionate laugh out loud.

The dichotomy of a bug

Lately, I find myself seduced by bugs.

bug

Photo by Jen Maidenberg

On the one hand, they’re so, so ugly.

So disgusting.

I don’t want them anywhere near me.

And yet, I can’t get close enough.

I want to examine them. Study their intricacies. See how they’re made. Gaze into their eyes.

I’m fascinated by their beauty. By the very clear and intentional design of their wings, their backs, their stingers.

Who made bugs so beautiful and so ugly at the same time?

I often ask myself the same question about religion:

Who made religion so beautiful and so ugly at the same time?

Who made it so I could find solace and comfort in prayer and community, while at the same time feel so ashamed at the behavior of  my community leaders and fellow members?

Who made religion so beautiful and so ugly at the same time?

Who made it so I could be so energized and enlightened by religious texts, and so confused and hurt by their antiquated, yet still upheld laws?

Who?

Who made it so beautiful?

Photo by Jen Maidenberg

Photo by Jen Maidenberg

So ugly?

At the same time?

And, perhaps the better question is why…

What purpose does this dichotomy serve?