The strands of God I braid into lifelines are made of rags, dried roots, aches, pains, snake skins, and sun. My images of God are stained by blood and the poison leaves of rhubarb, crushed, boiled, dried, and painted on muslin shipped from India, the cloth of royalty, spun with pride by beautiful brown people starving for a chance at life.
There are those who keep their meditations and rituals tight and tidy, like spiritual minimalists. They expect God to do the same. Variations on good and evil are not tolerated because of the mess that creates. But I can absolutely assure you, attempts to keep God simple and sorted out never work.
God appears or withdraws without warning. God ignores, intrudes, laughs, cries, gallops away, swims back, soars, grovels, snorts, pouts, lurks, flaps, crawls, and overstays any kind of real or imagined welcome. I lament the naïve worship of false saviors and the primitive ways we think we can protect ourselves.
“And what about plastic?” God asks, joining my foray into complexities and despair. “Tupperware was once regarded as a miracle.” God takes the shape of a vacuum cleaner, then a fridge; God infuses a book of photos of my chemo baldness and the breastless beauty of my friend’s short-term victory over cancer. God is flippant and fancy, playing the fool to cheer me up.
“Be ye still, God,” I say to all the moving pieces.
“Good one,” God laughs and pulls me onto the trampoline. God is protective, warning those close to me that I can’t be bounced as high anymore. Even though this signals the condition of my bones, I am comforted by the attention.
“I know you pretty well,” God says, watching me jump. “I wish you’d stay off ladders.”
“Oh, take a hike,” I say.
“Good idea,” God says. And away we go.
This is the Big Truth. We can neither contain nor control God: not in rituals, not in words, not in ideas (simple or otherwise), not in rules, not in promises, not in skylines or photos—even from the Hubble telescope. God refuses to be shaken down, defined, spoken for, or reduced. Thus, it is wise to entertain sorrow, welcome the stranger, love the enemy, and find strength in the profound, complex joy that is life itself. God’s blood is the blood we bleed. It is on loan from eternity.