She stands there looking out the window. For what, she’s not sure. Perhaps it’s for the return of Spring or the love she lost to a job opportunity in Albuquerque. Or maybe she looks for nothing more than the arrival of the mail with another announcement that she “might be a winner!” Sometimes even she doesn’t know what she’s waiting for.
But wait she does. Looking through the window that frames the only world she really knows anymore—a few scrubby bushes and a sad tree that used to sport a tire swing, but now only seems insistent on dying one big branch at a time.
The kids have gone. They don’t get back to see her much now, since the older one took a job in Seattle, and the younger one followed a dream to New York. Maybe what she looks for as she stands there is them … the ones she loves … to come home. She’d like to think that whatever else it might mean—more than the memories and the knick-knacks, the stuff they’ll inherit one day after she’s gone—that home means her. She wants them to come back looking for her.
And so, there she stands, looking out the window.
I suspect it’s not easy being God. Lot of whining to put up with, I would guess.
Plus the grabbiness. Yikes! The grabbiness. “Lord, help me to make it to my pedicure on time.”
And then there’s the garden variety cussedness humans seem so adept at manifesting from moment to moment.
All of those things mount up to aggravations if you’re God, though. But, come on, you’re God, so you’re supposed to be the adult in the relationship, right? Part of the job.
What must get difficult to bear, though, is all the time spent as an afterthought of the people to whom you gave life. And I don’t just mean, “They never write or call anymore.” I mean going through life as if there’s always something more important than you.
Now, it would be easy to anthropomorphize, picturing God as some kind of stereotypically petulant mother, always complaining that her children regularly fail to make her the most important thing in their lives. I can’t imagine God much cares for that unflattering picture.
No, I have a suspicion that God’s yearning has less to do with what God needs than with what people lose by ignoring God. Historically, Christianity has (often unwittingly, I’m sure) tended to present God as a fragile child, whose ego must constantly be soothed through acts of worship and devotion—and, ultimately, through some form of cosmic sacrifice. That whole sentiment finds its champion all the way back in the early Middle Ages when Bishop Anselm unveils the Satisfaction Theory of Atonement.
In essence, the Satisfaction Theory contends that God’s honor (since God is holy and perfect) is slighted by the sin of humanity. This affront cannot go unanswered; it requires a suitable act of obedience so great (Christ’s death) that it will more than satisfy the demands of God’s honor … for everyone.
But such a theory, again, perhaps unwittingly, creates an image of God that sounds creepily like that boyfriend who’s so insecure that he seems only able to exist on the ephemeral fumes of your reassurances that “no, seriously, you’re really great. I mean it.” One of the enduring criticisms of Christianity has to do with this portrayal of an ultra needy God who appears only too ready to fly into an apoplectic rage anytime someone fails to demonstrate proper obeisance.
On this account, God cannot help but look hopelessly adolescent.
Look, I’m not saying we should treat God like a Tuesday evening regular down at the pub. God is God, after all. And therefore God deserves our respect and our worship. But neither should we treat God as a deity no sturdier than aunt Gladys, the family drama queen, who falls to pieces whenever the spotlight fails to shine brightly enough on her.
Because to the extent that God desires us, it seems to me, it has more to do with how our failure to remember God affects us than with some need that God has to be needed. If God is self-sufficient, God doesn’t need us anyway.
If this is true, then God isn’t a pouting parent, whose mission it seems is to scour our lives for instances by which to feel repeatedly let down, but an affirming parent whose longings are on our behalf and on behalf of the wholeness we were created to realize—knowing that we are most truly ourselves when we are in God’s presence.
In other words, if God stands wistfully at the window waiting for our return, it’s not because God needs our adoration, but because we can never be who we really are until we finally realize that our truest home is in God.