God, Rid Me of God
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1 (NRSV)
Occasionally, someone will come to me and sheepishly confess, “I’m not sure I believe in God anymore.” My response often comes as a surprise: “You’re not sure you believe in God anymore? That’s great!”
Letting go of one view of God doesn’t mean letting go of God. At least, it doesn’t have to. It might simply mean we are ready for a more expansive understanding of God. “I’m not sure I believe in God anymore” means we’ve outgrown one set of theological clothes and we are ready for another. Even serpents have to shed their skin every now and then.
Meister Eckhart, the 13th century Christian mystic often prayed, “God, rid me of God” – that is, to rid him of limited ideas, images and concepts about God which constrained his understanding of divine reality. Theologically, Eckhart sought to outgrow wherever he happened to be.
We are not meant to sit under a palm tree in paradise and not question, not struggle, not grow, not mature. Growth is the challenge of the Bible, which is why the Garden of Eden story, for me, is not a tale of paradise lost, but of paradise outgrown.
Holy Gardener, while I can’t return to Eden as I once knew it, I can keep growing into a bigger heaven and into a more expansive earth.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.