“Give yourself a little Grace,” said my friend Callie.
Callie and I were sitting on the couches at the Y last week talking about our mutual insanity. I was feeling tired and depressed. She was feeling pregnant. I’d had a difficult week. I hadn’t found a rhythm to this new working-writing-contracting-teaching-mommying life, and the lack of structure was taking its toll. I was working after Cole went to bed – something I do my best to avoid – and couldn’t muster more than a handful of seated asanas. It was a bad week for yoga.
At least, that’s what I would have told myself a few years ago. Now, even though my first thought is one of judgement and failure, I change the narrative to remind myself that I have been practicing yoga for twenty years and am not about to abandon it. This is a life long gig. One week of scarcity does not a quitter make. And even if I do quit, so what?
“Give yourself a little Grace.”
Way back in the Anusara days I used the word “Grace” as a non-threatening, non-denominational, non-person term for God. God is so often used as personal noun; which has been troubling me of late because by calling out a God name I am forced into personification. And that personification is your typical old man with the white beard as painted by Michelangelo. Or, if I’m substituting “Our Father” with “Our Mother,” a glimmering, fierce, compassionate, wild woman.
I like both, but I can’t conceive of God as a person. Nor can I conceive of God as a nonperson.
I sit in church and wonder just what is this God we pray to? I wonder why I’m so comforted by liturgy and teaching when God as person or nonperson is far beyond my realm of comprehension.
Sometimes I’m not sure I believe in God. It isn’t a crisis of faith. It’s a crisis of concept.
It’s not a crisis of faith because I have had two distinct experiences that without question point beyond.
The first time was twelve years ago. I was sitting in Caribou coffee when a friend said, “God loves you just as you are.” I looked out the window at one of the duller sights in Cary, and for a nanosecond the drab tan bricks of the dry cleaners across the dirty street shimmered; became the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. For a nanosecond I could see and feel the world as animated by love and loving me right along with it.
The second time happened in a particularly deep meditation. All sorts of dark shit was going down when Kali – Hindu Goddess of Death (read – transformation) threw me into a turbulent sea. I tried to swim, she said to let go. Then, a brilliant Christ lifted me up into pure white light and I again felt the animation of love. I was loved. I am loved.
That is why, despite a crisis of concept, I can’t extract myself from a belief and relationship with this whatever God.
As I was writing the Householder’s Retreat I “stumbled” across this from womanist theologian Mary Daly, “Why indeed must ‘God’ be a noun? Why not a verb . . . the most active and dynamic of all?”
When Callie said, “Give yourself a little Grace,” she wasn’t saying give yourself a person or a thing. She was saying, give yourself something active. Something you can work with. Give yourself a state of being. Be gentle. Be loved.
Like my yoga practice, this crisis of concept may last a lifetime. I’m not sure it matters. The world will continue with or without me and my uncertainty.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter if I have a concept of God. Perhaps it doesn’t matter if God is a person or nonperson person or verb. Perhaps what matters is that I give myself, that we give each other, a little Grace.