Children…always say, Do it again; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, Do it again, to the sun; and every evening, Do it again, to the moon… It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
– Gilbert Keith G. K. Chesterton
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Psalm 147:4, NIV
As a seeker, and one who feels called to serve, I look forward to the moments when God gets bigger. In my work as an Interfaith Minister, God expands most readily in my encounters with those who practice Faith Traditions that are different from my own. A few weeks ago, I had the thrill of traveling, on an interfaith tour, to Turkey. I must confess that in the 10 days we were there, my experience of God busted right outta da box. Because there’s too much to tell, and no words for lots of it, here are four times when, for me, God grew.
Just before the trip, a friend of mine who is Sufi, explained to me that in Arabic, “Al” is affirmative, translating to mean, “yes,” and “Lah,” is negative, or “no.” Al-lah. Yes-No. Allah. Yesno.
Five times a day, the Muslim Call to Prayer resounds from the minarets and mosques across all of Turkey. Whether the Call found me walking with others in the daylight, or waking me from sleep at 4am, I was eager to add my own prayers, to the millions of others, petitioning, thanking, praising God, the One who is Both, the One who is Neither, the One who holds the Inbetween. Yes-No! God-Dess! Al-lah!
One hot, windy afternoon, out beyond the nearest village’s audible Call to Prayer, God grew again. It was when we visited the site of Mother Mary’s home. Driving up the mountain, high above Ephesus, I loved being pushed to imagine for the first time, what had happened to Mary after the Resurrection. Where did this mother, this woman whom Catholic Christians and others revere and entrust with their prayers, where did she go? It was then that our Tour Guide used a word I wasn’t expecting. It was innocent, I’m sure, when he said, “superstitious.” He said it in reference to the fountains of holy water and the wall of prayers created by those who have come to Mother Mary’s home. How many times, I wondered, have I limited God’s bigness by labeling certain practices as….superstitious. Without hesitation, I went directly to the fountains, dipping my hands in the holy water, touching my cheeks and throat with the cool wetness. I thought of how many times Jesus, Mary, Mohammad, had been equally grateful for water’s refreshment. Rummaging through my bag, I wrote my prayer on a piece of scrap paper and tied it faithfully to the wall of prayers.
How’s your Turkish? Mine, like God, is growing….though not as rapidly as would’ve been useful during visits with our hosts. Verbal language, be damned! Connecting with these humans through facial expressions, charades of comic proportion, and – in extreme acts of desperation – bad drawings on found bits of napkin, we discovered genuine affection. We unearthed the deep regard humans can feel for one another. In each face, a spark of God. Seven billion sparks of God and growing…
And lastly? I haven’t yet mentioned that I was on this trip with my Mom, and her husband, Tom. Looking across ruins I had been asked, as a kid, to re-create in Sunday School using toothpicks and marshmallows; looking across ruins, whose architecture I studied and was made to memorize for The History of Theatre, as a college freshman; looking across ruins, my eyes picked out of the crowd, my Mother, the one who brought me here.
Where, in your world, is God getting bigger? And when God grows, what happens in you? Please share with me….I like hearing from you.
[A version of this post also appears in Lumunos, where I have the thrill of “guest blogging” from time to time. Visit them!]