Metaphorically Speaking

park sunrise

In 12-Step programs, we spend a lot of time talking about God because they are spiritual programs based on no particular form of religion.  God first appears in the 2nd step as a power greater than ourselves (who) could return our life to sanity … or, more simply, a Higher Power.   For some reason, in men’s meetings, some guys choose to abbreviate this to HP, as in, I’m better off if I turn my problems over to HP.   Because I’m an engineer, HP has always meant Hewlett Packard and there’s no way I’m turning my problems over to them … or to Dell or Lenovo for that matter.   But then again, turning things over to God under any name has always been a challenge to me.  12-Step people often say that when they turn things over to God, God does for them what they couldn’t do for themselves.   People tell stories of difficulties turned over to God that resolve themselves miraculously  … often sounding as if that’s how the world always works.  With these cynical eyes God gave me, sad or tragic outcomes are as likely as good ones whether I turn my problems over to God or Hewlett Packard or no one at all.  Cliches like, Sometimes things that initially appear bad turn out to be good, and Everything happens for a reason, don’t help much, even though both have been true in my life sometimes.  But for twenty plus years I have been turning someone I love over to God and that someone continues to struggle.  I don’t blame God for his problems but I do wonder why God’s help doesn’t help.  Likely something to do with free will.  There are those who tell me I should banish this person from my life as a way of getting out of God’s way.  That doesn’t feel right but I’m certainly not certain.

If there is a God that created me (and I do believe there is), that God apparently chose to place certainty in spiritual matters beyond my reach.  That has made me a spiritual seeker, an over-thinker and somewhat of a heretic (in the sense that if you state something as one of your certainties, I will likely be skeptical).  And yet I am envious of true believers of any sort.   I want to believe with their certainty … it looks so much easier than my way when others do it.  My envy can make me bitter and dismissive toward those who claim to have faith and knowledge of God’s will.   I can feel as if they are preaching to me even when they are just telling their truth.

Perhaps nothing gets me through my moments of faith-envy like something I read in one of Rabbi David Rubin’s books on the Kabbalah, that no one can truly know God.  My friend Ralph puts it this way: Understanding how God works is way above my pay grade.   According to Rabbi Rubin, everything we think we know about God is a metaphor that helps us conceive of the Unknowable.   I like that.  You can believe that you understand just how God works in the world and I can wonder but never know.   I can just say God, while you say Jesus or Allah or even Hewlett Packard.   We can each have our own metaphor … and none of us has the whole picture.   I can live with that.



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2 Comments on “Metaphorically Speaking”

  1. barrythewiz Says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. It doesn’t “fix” the unfixable, but it does explain a lot. “everything we think we know about God is a metaphor that helps us conceive of the Unknowable”. I love it.

  2. rita altman Says:

    When adversity happens in my life or I am thankful for something positive that has happened, I pray to God. It makes me feel better. But, I really have NO idea who or what I am praying to. Because of course, no-one on Earth knows who or what God is. I prefer to rely on the Jewish Reconstructionist view of God–God is the power and feeling within each of us. And, I am thankful that praying to God gives me some solace.

    Love you Bud Reed!!

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