Phantom Deity Disorder

The other day while having dinner with friends I subconsciously reached my hand toward the attractive woman seated next to me. It was an effort to steal a private moment of affection with my wife by a brief grasp of her hand. Everything was perfect except for the fact that the woman sitting next to me was not my wife nor was she of any romantic interest at all. To her, my flaccid and foreign gesture would have seemed like an invitation to bow our heads and say grace.  Fortunately, just as I was about to employ my ill-directed  “love squeeze,” I realize what I was doing. Instead of delivering a loving caress, my hand paused and then gave her knuckle a playful flick.

You see, my marriage ended over 3 years ago. How odd is it that after all of this time that I would still reach out to share a moment of physical comfort from someone who is not really there? Well not too strange I guess, since many of us do the very same thing with God.

We reach toward what we know in full expectation of confirmation… only to find ourselves alone and left to our own wits to figure it all out.

By now many of us are aware of the “vibranxiety” that is caused by “Phantom Vibration Syndrome,” that sensation that our phone is ringing in our pockets when in fact it is sitting in front of us. Somehow there’s disconnect from what is real and what we want to be real.

How so it is with God.
We reach out in hopes that God reaches back.
Now there’s nothing wrong with that, after all we trust in the promise that if we draw nigh to God that God will draw nigh to us.
But too often we have an expectation about the way God should reach back. We reach out with our understanding and predetermined comprehension of God and fully anticipate that God will respond this way every time.  Is it no wonder we’re disappointed when we metaphorically return empty handed?

Now I’m not suggesting that the ways God embraces us in this life are necessarily stingy, quite the contrary, actually. More so, I think it may be us who are stingy or even greedy in how we demand God’s interaction with us to be played out in our lives.

It’s been said before, but I think it deserves repeating, that it shouldn’t be in the certitude of God that we should draw our comfort, but rather it’s in the unsearchableness of God. The easy answer does nothing to move us closer to a more vibrant relationship with the universe. Rather it is in the searching of faith and in the wrestling with life that we find genuine fulfillment and hope.

The creator draws no more pride in our blind obedience to our ideals as he does in our earnest seeking.

In the book “The Life of Pi,” despite a lengthy and artfully detailed description of Hinduism’s importance in his life, Pi cautions against clinging too tightly to your own understanding of God and warns against fundamentalism and literalists.  To prove his point, he tells the story of Krishna the shepherd and the milk maids:

“Every night he invites the milk maids to come and dance with him in the forest.  They come and they dance. The night is dark and the fire in their midst roars and crackles, the beat of the music gets ever faster — the girls dance and dance and dance with their sweet lord who has made himself so abundant as to be in the arms of each and every girl. But the moment the girls become possessive, the moment each one imagines that Krishna is her partner alone, he vanishes.  So it is that we should not be jealous with God.”

How ironic would it be if it were God who was reaching out to us? But not to embrace us in our loneliness or to kiss us for our goodness, but to playfully deliver a flick. A loving gesture to remind us that he is indeed there but we should hold lightly to what we believe about the mystery that is God.


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