When a baby is born it clings to its mother’s chest. Gaining an insight by touch and smell of the mother’s closeness. The heart beat it knows very well. The father hopefully to will hold their baby. Research shows that the father too greatly influences the development of the baby through their connection. In this beginning moment in time the mother and the father may seem like God to the baby. Providing everything.
At a recent retreat I listened to a 18 year old say “I do not believe in God” and in the next sentence “I do not get along with my father. He has never shown me no love”. I thought to myself, “are these two statements connected”, when God is love?
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we see a psychological progression through physiological needs such as food, shelter, and reproduction; safety needs such as protection; love and belonging such as family and friendship; esteem needs such as respect and self-esteem; self-actualisation such as the desire to go beyond the self.
The concept that God is mother or that God is father makes sense at an early age. But this cannot remain, else the child has a very basic concept of God. At a young age, God maybe like a fictional story like Santa Clause, Cinderella, or Pinocchio. Our concept of God must grow as we grow.
The baby bird is protected by the mother bird whilst in the nest. But one day, in order for the baby bird to learn to fly, the mother may push the baby bird out of the nest. The baby bird falls, but this is how they learn to fly. Yes. God is love. But also, God is tough love. We are called to go beyond our comfort zones. The sense of esteem and self-esteem grows when we realise we are no longer dependent on our parents.
But for some it is at this moment that we lose our childish concept of God given to us by our parents. God reflects our own human development. God is no longer important. Our concept of God may have let us down. Someone in our lives may have let us down. God may be dead.
Our lives are more than what they seem. Often, years later, the spark or our understanding of God is re-ignited with change. It may take a deep connection and encounter through a liminal moment such as with great suffering or great love to cause us to question our notion of self and of-maybe our notion of who God is. God is no longer a big man in the sky with a white beard. We may begin to see that God has always been there, but we needed something or someone to show us a different way of seeing how God is love. God who is both within and without. Interestingly, the Greeks had many words for love. Filo’s or friendship love. Eros or erotic love. Agape or a love in service. God is not one of these, but all three. God becomes an indwelling dance, not just made up of our self-concept of God, but a dance between family persons, friends and the whole of life who relate to each other through an expression of love.