When you read or hear the term “God”, what comes to mind? If you’re like me, our stereotypical notion of a bearded man up in heaven is NOT something very tangible, apparent, relatable, or possibly even believable … and I’ve been a Christian my whole life! I don’t say this to disturb or disrupt you and your ideas, especially helpful ones, but to invite us to expand our understanding and experience of the Source of Reality by alsoviewing God as a verb. For me, this single shift in thinking has brought bliss beyond belief, so I’m especially excited to share today’s blog with you!
Think about your relationships … how do you know a friend, partner, or family member? By her/his words and deeds. We relate with and connect to one another via actions. I know the being of Lisa, my wife, from my experience of her encouraging words, loving touch, the beautiful expressions on her face, the caring questions she asks, her kind acts of service, and so on. One could say we’re known and know by our verbs, so why would God be any different?
This brings me to one of the great gifts of Christianity to the world. We believe Jesus was God in the flesh (incarnate), thus making the Divine personable, relatable, and touchable. Jesus gave God a face. While that was 2,000 years ago and may not seem very applicable now, Jesus told us, “I’ll be with you always.” So, the question becomes how?
My take on this mystery, right or wrong, is Jesus was/is a singular, localized manifestation of the Christ, who is the cosmic blueprint for, energy enlivening within, and Love betweenall people and things. This means God is constantly relating with us, i.e. verbing (to make up a word :), through other people’s kindness, courage, vulnerability, and even neediness (like foster kids, refugees, and so on). Jesus said, “Only God is good”, which I take to mean (in part): EVERY instance of good deeds and words is an experience of the Divine! (Hebrews 1, the beginning of John 1 and Ephesians 1, the middle of Colossians 1, and the end of Matthew 25 are a few of the Bible’s passages that have guided me to this paragraph’s conclusions).
Saint Paul, who even though he never met Jesus in the flesh wrote much of the New Testament because of his mystical experience of the Christ, named the people of the Church the Body of Christ. Why? It seems he also understood a primary way we encounter and interact with God is through other people. It seems the opposite is true too, as in the early days of Christianity (after Jesus had departed) Paul was an avid persecutor and sometimes killer of Christ followers. Then, as he was traveling to torment more, Paul became blinded and the voice of Jesus asked him, “Why are you persecuting me?” When we hurt or harm people, we hurt or harm the Divine, and thankfully the opposite is True too!
Another great gift of Christianity relating to this is the Trinity, the belief that the one God is three Persons who, like a waterwheel, perpetually pour Love into one another and creation in a never-ending dance of giving and receiving selfless care, compassion, and kindness. God’s very nature is relationship, which means loving connection is both at the heart of reality and has a Divine flavor to it. Whenever we experience the Flow of Love, given and/or received, we encounter God (1 John 4.7-21).
Parallel to how we meet the Divine via the Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control of others, we come into contact with our Creator in and through creation. In a general sense, while in relationships we get to know the intimate side of our Source, in nature we gaze in awe at Divine transcendence (i.e. God’s bigness and beyondness). The beauty of nature wows our souls, filling us with wonder and delight, which I take to be meeting the Maker via God’s ongoing acts of creating masterpieces.
A subtler piece of encountering God as a verb in nature comes in an energetic sense. It’s the sense of peace and calm that soothes our spirits when we walk along a beach, stroll down a trail, sit beside a creek, enjoy a sunset, gaze at the clouds, drink in the stars, and so on. It’s the big picture perspective we feel in our bones in these same moments, which reminds us “all will be well.”
A final way I think seeing God as a verb helps us receive more heavenly bliss deserves its own blog, or book, so forgive me for being brief. While nouns are like castles, static and unmovable, verbs are like rivers, flowing and changing. Likewise, and recognizing all our language and musings about God inevitably falls short, I see God’s character as unchanging (like a noun) and activities as dynamically flowing, changing, receiving and giving (like a verb), as happens in healthy relationships.
This means we can start by resting safe and secure in God’s unchanging and unwavering adoration for us. And from that sweet space, we can also trust our prayers domatter and dochange/influence the Divine (as frequently happens in the Bible). What is more, God is always moving forward and inviting us to join the journey toward ever-greater beauty, ever-deeper peace, ever-richer joy, and ever more lavish Love.
In many ways everything we’re talking about here is the path of a mystic, and as Carmelite friar William McNamara writes: “the mystic is not a special kind of person; each person is a special kind of mystic.” In other words, there are as many ways to encounter the Divine, as there are people. So, just as Spiderman’s Spidey Sense helps him feel the un-seeable, hopefully these thoughts help us together grow our uniquely amazing Spirit Senses. I hope you have a fantastic day!
Grace and peace,