My parents had their 50th wedding anniversary celebration in the summer and there were lots of friends and family in attendance. One of my Mom’s old friends was there with her husband, he’s a pastor of a church and it’s likely similiar to the one i grew up in. And they gave me a gift. They made me think again about the God i grew up with and the one I’ve come around to.

My Mom’s friend has a daughter my age and one of the first things out of her mouth in a kind of snotty voice was, “Darla’s kids are all grown up”. Now this likely makes no sense to you but let me decode the meaning for you. In the church I grew up in a woman’s #1 goal should be to get married and have kids the minute she can pull it off.

If she holds a job, the best kind is a retail sort of job, it’s easy to ditch and besides University is staffed by humanists who will turn you into a god-hater. So my Mom’s friend was pointing out to me that because i had kids later I therefore completely missed the mark, unlike her much more successful daughter.

The only response that came to mind and out of mouth was, “yeah i was having way too much fun to have kids young.” By which i meant travelling, building a career and finding a really great partner, but i’m sure she assumed it meant sleeping around or something.  And that’s ok.  I didn’t get angry or feel hurt or anything. I more enjoyed remembering why i stopped going to church and how my view of God has evolved.

I read somewhere that your image of God is the one you need. And those folks are a pretty fearful things-need-to-be-a-certain-way-or-i-can’t-cope bunch. So of course their God, even though they say he’s loving, also sits in judgement of you on things like whether you have kids later in life (they probably have a number of bible verses to back up their views).

So after ditching church i pretty much ditched God too. I didn’t really want any part of a cranky narrow-minded God who didn’t approve of the kind of person I was.

Later i read “Money Drunk, Money Sober, 90 Days to Financial Freedom”, by Julia Cameron (the Artist’s Way gal) and I loved what she said about God. Basically she said if you grew up with an image of cranky God, find a better image, find the one you need. Which i thought was awesome, like i get to pick? But what i took from that is that if i’m evolving, and I sure I hope i am, then my picture of God is going to evolve too.

And then i read Tattoos On The Heart by Gregory Boyle.  He’s a Jesuit priest who runs Homeboy Ministries in LA, working with gang members and helping them start a new life.  This book nailed my “grown up” conception of God.  I can’t say enough about it, so let me just quote you some of it.  And then go out and buy a copy of the book to support his work.

So Father Boyle goes to hold Mass in a detention facility and before it starts he talks to Rigo and asks him about his family. Rigo tells him a story about his heroin addicted father beating with a pipe when he was in fourth grade and cries as he tells it.

But I ask, “And your mom?” He points some distance from where we are to a tiny waoman standing by the gym’s entrance.

“That’s her over there.” He pauses for a beat, “There’s no one like her.”…”I’ve been locked up for more than a year and a half. She comes to see me every Sunday. You know how many buses she take every Sunday–to see my sorry ass?”

Then quite unexpectedly he sobs with the same ferocity as before. Again, it takes him some time to reclaim breath and an ability to speak. Then he does, gasping through his tears. “Seven buses. She takes…seven…buses. Imagine.”

How then to imagine, the expansive heart of this God–greater than God–who takes seven buses, just to arrive at us. We settle sometimes for less than intimacy with God when all God longs for is this solidarity with us…Our image of who God is and what’s on God’s mind is more tiny than it is troubled….

The desire of God’s heart is immeasurably larger than our imaginations can conjure. This longing of God’s to give us peace and assurance and a sense of well-being only awaits our willingness to cooperate with God’s limitless magnanimity.

Now that’s my kind of God, the seven buses kind :-)