“Who is this God who you claim loves you? What makes you think that this almighty, all-powerful Creator knows your name? What kind of religious nut are you to swallow this stuff about a personal God who not only cares about us and listens to our prayers but loves us?”
No, these are not the words of an acquaintance of mine. They represent what our modern culture is saying to me, albeit in more politically correct terms. Cut to the chase, they are really asking, “You don’t still believe in all that crap, do you?”
I plead guilty. I am that kind of nut, or, rather, I aspire to be. I want to look at God through the eyes of faith and see him as much more than just a “higher power” or the “man upstairs” or some benign figure “up there” who I call upon when I am in trouble or need help passing an exam or getting a job.
The God I want in my life is the same one that inspired heroes like Martin Luther King or Gandhi or Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa to bring light to our world, the God who lives in every husband who stands by his dying wife and every young man or woman who is willing to die for his country. It is this kind of living God that I want to believe in and carry in my heart.
The God who I want to energize me is not Catholic or Protestant or Muslim. He or she may speak to me on Sunday morning in church, but I am just as likely to see the divine touch in a dragonfly or a towering redwood tree or the cry of a newborn infant.
No denomination has dibs on God. The voice I try to listen to is pretty clear about his desire to include all of us under the umbrella of his love. We are all welcome to his table. His is a universal love.
Many years ago, I went to Japan as a missionary. I thought my calling was to convert others. I wanted to make the Japanese people Christian, not realizing that before I even existed God had already showered them with his love. All I was really called to do was to love the Japanese.
I want to carry in my soul that lesson I learned from my missionary days. I want to see the presence of God in the poor and the homeless and the refugee. Flawed as I am (my friends would agree), I realize that who I am and who I want to be are still poles apart. But I have come to understand that my faults or yours don’t make any difference to this tremendous lover. This God loves me still and all of humankind with me. My God is much more than a remote and inaccessible “higher power.” Indeed, he became one of us.
So, yes, I am the kind of nut who not only believes in God but adores him under the appearance of bread in the Eucharist and under the appearance of the homeless person on the street corner, the drug addict, or the teenage girl struggling with her sexual identity.
Folks of my generation used to tell one another, “Don’t worry. God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.” I don’t think that way anymore. God is not in his heaven. He is here among us, within us. And that makes all the difference.
Hank Mattimore is a noncanonical Catholic priest, freelance writer, and a former Oblate of Mary Immaculate. He is “grandpa Hank” to the kids he mentors. He lives in Windsor, California, and welcomes comments at email@example.com.