Atheists are fond of suggesting that we create God in our own image. In fact, the mean old white-bearded god of judgment learned in some people’s childhood is the reason they give for dismissing belief in God. (Actually, of course, any reason will do if you decide not to believe.) But it does seem that as we evolve, so does God.
He seems so much more complicated as we age. We can perhaps remember, as children, our idea of God was so simple. We can smile at the memory of our innocent wonder of “Him,” a child’s wonder at all the universe, all the life around us, from the view of our own new life, of which we were just becoming aware, the very newness of our own being. He was Father—of all this, all life, of us. As we grew, so did he. We matured in our own understanding of “father”; a loving disciplinarian, he “chastened” us because he loved us. This was our understanding of Our Father, our Sire, that source of life in whom we lived and moved and had our being. He was big and powerful, protecting us, his beloved children.
In the same way, we understood our Mother, who fed and nurtured us in unconditional love; she was obedient and submissive to Father and taught us the same obedience and submission. Indeed, it was in her submission that we were conceived. And so we understood that too as a source of life, mysterious though it was. To be disobedient was to thwart life and deform us, and lead us to a life of darkness and loss of our father’s kingdom.
There are those who outgrew their father. They became smarter, bigger, stronger than he was, and just so, they outgrew God. Because they were smarter than he was, they became their own authority, humanists. And they outgrew their mother as well. They became wiser, more free than she was, and ironically controlled by their unacknowledged worship of phallic power, they became stronger than she was. Despising what they saw as her weakness, they became feminists. They outgrew faith in anything except themselves and their own ideas.
But, even if we didn’t have a temporal ideal father or mother, whether we were blessed with an idyllic childhood of unified parents or not, we still knew, because we are part of nature and all of nature followed the same pattern: God was heaven, mother was earth, and all of life was the fruit of that union, the trinity of nature that depends utterly on the union of heaven and earth, father and mother. We understood the mystery of the seeming death in submission as the necessary condition for life. It was not hard to perceive the resurrection as the unmistakable sign of life’s continuity because of that necessary surrender to the Father’s will, even on a cross.
For that reason, we can understand why our Lord told Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the one thing necessary. In our Christian life, we find, sometimes only painfully slowly, that the one thing necessary is submission to his will, not to win our own complicated arguments about whether he is a he/she/it or about what we think his will might be. For Christian faith is composed of listening, another word for prayer. No theories, no human ideas of activism—of body or of intellect—can supersede that one thing necessary. Nothing can displace the primacy of that necessary condition of all life, and of life eternal. It is the very state in which our blessed Mother lived her life, in wordless pondering of his will in her heart. His mother, his sister, his brother are those who do his father’s will. No one understood that better than she.
From the primeval days of the infancy of our humanity, when God was the mountain, the big and powerful and remote mountain, to the days of our pagan adolescence when the sun was father-God and the earth was mother, we evolve and mature in direct proportion to our spiritual growth. And eventually, in old age, perhaps, we understand that nothing of our early grasp has changed at all, only deepened and expanded. It really is simple, after all. We are still children—but now, in joyful and grateful humility, so very glad to be! Finally understanding that our true strength comes in our weakness and our true freedom comes in that submission and obedience, we are plagued no longer with restless desires for more.
And in moments of meditative listening, we know that as our own science has learned, nothing ever goes away in nature, but only changes, so it is in super-nature. As it has always been from the beginning, so it is from our own beginning. We know enough about him only when we know that we will never know him—not now, not in this life. And we are content to see through a glass darkly, content to listen, to obey, to submit to our own love for him and to his love for us. Until we see him as he is.