07 October 2011

the parts we don't like

Today's prayer podcast at Pray as You Go made my heart sink with the words of the scripture for meditation from Joel 2Sound the alarm on my holy mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble. For the Day of the Lord is coming. It is near: a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness. I had been ready for a more encouraging message today!

But the guidance for meditation asked, What do you think this Day of the Lord that is near is? Is it something to be feared? To be welcomed? and then went on, Joel speaks of alarm, darkness, gloom and clouds. Do you think there is a place for that kind of language when we speak about God? If so, why? If not, why not? And those questions reminded me of Godly Play. do think there is a place for language of darkness and clouds when speaking about God. But I also think it's a very worthwhile exercise to think about the arguments for both answers to that question. 

The Great Day of His Wrath by John Martin (1789-1854)

One of the things that I loved the most when I first experienced Godly Play was the fact that at the end of each Sacred Story we are invited to wonder if there is any part of this story that we could leave out and yet still have all the story we need.

It doesn't even have to be something that we don't like. It could be something we're baffled by, a detail that seems irrelevant, or just an exercise in paring down to the simple essentials (as Jill writes). But what pleases me most about the question is that it gives us room to say, I don't like that part. In fact, I wish it wasn't even part of the story at all.

And it's not just for the sake of children that I love that. Once, my father was reading a Bible story aloud to us as a family and my mother suddenly interrupted and asked him to stop at a certain point. Because I had been (Sunday-)schooled in a very Bible-based church, I knew what was coming in the story. And although I wanted to be sympathetic, I wasn't sure that a request like that was really "allowed". After all, we had been told over and over again that You can't just pick and choose from the Bible. You can't just leave out the parts you don't like.

Well, Godly Play doesn't really say that we can cut those pages out of our Bibles, as it were, but it does give us room to say that we don't like them. And I believe that that's healthy. We belong to a faith that has Sacred Stories about people who bargain with God and people who wrestle with God. And I confess to a certain amount of sympathy for Jonah, who not only got angry with God, but lectured him a bit, sulked, and finally burst out with an endearingly adolescent-sounding, I'm so angry I could die! (Jonah 4

detail from a miniature, Vatican Library

1 comment:

  1. Once again, well said. Isn't is amazing that the God of the universe actually allows us to be Jonah, continues to dialogue with us anyway, and still loves us through it all?


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