Organically Connecting God and LifeFebruary 25th, 2020
Some time ago, my friend Brenda flew to Chicago for a visit with her daughter’s family, and especially with her granddaughter, Charity. Charity is five years old—a plump, cute, highly verbal little girl. Charity’s paternal grandmother had been visiting the previous week. She is a devout woman who takes her spiritual grandmothering duties very seriously, and she had just left.
The morning after Brenda’s arrival, Charity came into her grandmother’s bedroom at five o’clock, crawled into bed, and said, “Grandmother, let’s not have any Godtalk, okay? I believe God is everywhere. Let’s just get on with life.”
I like Charity. I think she is on to something.
“Let’s get on with life” can serve as a kind of subtext for our pursuit of spiritual formation and how easily and frequently the spiritual gets disconnected from our actual daily lives, leaving us with empty Godtalk. It’s not that the Godtalk is untrue, but when it is disconnected from the ordinary behavior and conversation that make up the fabric of our lives, the truth leaks out. A phrase from Psalm 116:9—“I walk before the Lord in the land of the living”—clears the ground and gives some perspective on Charity and “let’s just get on with life.”
Disconnecting God and Life
It’s not an uncommon thing among us that a disconnection takes place between our Christian identity and God, between our friends and God, between our work and God. Then there is no more life—just Godtalk. The life leaks out, and we are left flat.
I’m interpreting Charity’s five o’clock greeting to her grandmother as a diagnostic response to a way of life that somehow gets God and life disconnected and separated into two different categories. She missed something in the way her first grandmother talked about God, and she was hoping her second grandmother wouldn’t also miss it. I’m guessing that what she missed was life—the Life. Let’s get on with life.
It would be possible to interpret Charity’s words quite differently from what I am proposing to do. It’s possible she was saying that God is background—the background to everything—but only background. “I’m the important one. What I’m thinking and doing and wanting is what is at the center. So let’s get on with what is important to me right now—living my way, living my agenda. God is a given. He doesn’t need to be consulted or talked about. We are . . . I am . . . the action is right now. Let’s get on with life.”
From the mouth of a seventeen-year-old or a thirty-six-year-old or a fifty-two-year-old, that’s probably what those words would mean. It’s what many and perhaps most people mean when they make variations on the phrase, “Let’s get on with life.” And this is usually left unsaid: “Let’s leave God out of it. Let’s not complicate things with a lot of Godtalk.”
But because I know Charity somewhat, I think I’m safe in interpreting her in a better light. I think she was asking for a relationship with her second grandmother in which God would not be depersonalized into Godtalk but would be a personal presence alive in their dailyness—that there would be exchanges in which God and life are organically connected.
Charity is still living in that unselfconscious, spontaneous childhood world in which everything is immediate and personal and relational. Soon enough, that relational connectedness, that personal immediacy will start coming apart for Charity. And when it does, she is going to need someone to help her out of it. Words will be turned into abstract ideas instead of working metaphors. Persons will end up being functions or roles instead of souls and living encounters. When that happens—and it most surely will, long before she herself becomes a grandmother—she is going to need someone to call her on the carpet and say, “Charity, let’s not have any Godtalk, okay? I believe God is everywhere. Let’s just get on with life.”
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