God is the greatest question


John O'Donohue

John O’Donohue

God is the most passionate presence in the universe. … there is not a stitch of utilitarianism or functionalism in God. … God surges and flows and is wild. 

This aspect of God’s vitality has been lost for so long with­in the tradition. … Aristotle’s idea of God as unmoved mover seemed to protect the transcendence of God by putting him safely beyond all change.

The danger of such a concept is that it deadens the deity. God is not a dead answer. God is the greatest question in the universe, a question that has kept itself free of banal answers. This is where all fundamentalists and sects get lost. They convert the passion, wildness and danger of God as a question into a clichéd answer ….

John O’Donohue, ‘Fire: At Home at the Hearth of Spirit’, in: The Four Elements: Reflections on Nature

Rehabilitating desire

Desire has a disreputable reputation in religious circles. When most people hear the term, they think of two things: sexual desire or material wants, both of which are often condemned by some religious leaders. The first is one of the greatest gifts from God to humanity; without it the human race would cease to exist. The second is part of our natural desire for a healthy life – for food, shelter, and clothing.

James Martin, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life

We tend to think that if we desire something, it is probably something we ought not to want or to have. But … without desire we would never get up in the morning. … We would never have read a book or learned something new. No desire means no life, no growth, no change. Desire is what makes two people create a third person. Desire is what makes crocuses push up through the late-winter soil. Desire is energy, the energy of creativity, the energy of life itself.

Margaret Silf, Wise Choices, as quoted by Martin, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

About a changing universe, real relationships and avoiding the will to power

Looking for something else, I stumbled across some quotes I copied from Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack some time ago. This book had a profound impact upon me at a time of the most intense inner turmoil. Rereading the extracts many months later, I was once again touched by the deep wisdom found in these lines.

On forgiveness and kindness:

Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, [God’s] purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again.

And again on forgiveness, but also on relationships and how forgiveness, while important, is not the whole story:

Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.

The next thought follows on from the previous reference to change:

Growth means change and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown.

Some further reflections on relationships – and the problem of power:

Each relationship between two persons is absolutely unique. That is why you cannot love two people the same. It simply is not possible. You love each person differently because of who they are and the uniqueness that they draw out of you. And the more you know another, the richer the colors of that relationship.

Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself – to serve.

And, moving on to different issues, some interesting observations on law, control, superiority and certainty:

Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control. … [The law] grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, [God has] a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse.