Monday, 1 February 2010

Affirmative prayer, affirmative action?

On my cell group retreat and annual review, I came across this intriguing, slightly disturbing, playful poem, by an American poet I had not heard of before, Kaylin Haught:
God says Yes to Me

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

Not the whole story, of course... but I wonder what we make of the thought. There is a principle of “all God’s promises being yes and amen” that is not always central to the way we feel about God. Perhaps the point is in the relational dialogue between the poet and God, not the absolute rightness or wrongness of nail polish etc.?

A question to ponder as we in the monsastery review the year and look forward, anyway?


Sally D said...

I don't really know what to make of that poem but I love it.

It just sat comfortable/uncomfortable with me like a cat that's kneading in my lap.

Why is it so hard to hear God say, "Yes! You choose" ?? Because then we have to take responsibility for making a choice for ourselves. And that's so taxing that maybe we'd rather hear "No. You're NOT ALLOWED".

Erika Baker said...

Isn't the point that God meets us where we are - right now? Nail polish and all?
And if we accept that meeting place and walk together, day after day after day, she'll eventually show us whether the nail polish was really what it was about. Or whether nail polish ever even mattered.
But if she said "no" then - would we really trust her? Really listen?

Sally said...

liking the thought that God says yes to the frivolous... (sometimes)

Brian Baker said...

I think the relational dialogue is lovely. Thanks.

As for the rightness of "yes, yes, yes" I remember hearsing something in a sermon once that seemed right on target. The preacher said God's response to all our deeds, misdeeds and mistakes is, "I can work with that."

Thanks for your great blog.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thank you, thank you. Te cat picture makes a lot of sense to me. I strongly agree, Erika, with what I think you seem to be suggesting that the minor rights and wrongs are emergent and relational, and the ways they are talked of between us and God constructs or spoils our relationship. The relarionship indicated, say by Psalm 131, is of a weaned (i/e/ discerning) child, giving loving attention freely and in the context of real affection and understanding, not an angry old man fantasy. the frivolous is, after all, part of life. I've often been struck as a priest by the way people notice small details about, say fnerals, not the big things. They matter to them, and to deny that is to deny the value of the person who has noticed them. I will remember Brian's (preacher's) "I can work with that..." That's exactly what this poem is about, I wot.

JohnG said...

Lovely! This reminded me of the encounter between Philip Yancey and Henri Nouwen - after Nouwen had retired from his speaking and writing in order to be a full time carer for Adam a 26 year old unable to care for himself. The relationship between Adam and his eminent carer becomes a metaphor for God's dealings with us. Its written up in Yancey's book Soul Survivor. But here's an article which covers much the same ground: We idolise competence and success. When both may be actually beyond our grasp or profoundly irrelevant. When a relationship with God is within our reach.

Ann said...

Loved this so much I posted it to my FB page.

Ed Tomlinson said...

Jesus taught us to call God 'Our FATHER' but the author of this has the audacity to abandon this clear revelation of the scriptures as she concocts this heterdox poem about permissiveness. It offends Catholic dotrine and, if honest, it offends me. I see no way in which it can be called CHRISTIAN...merely post modern vaguely theistic drivel.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Fr Ed for a strong and sincere reaction to the poem. Some people felt very similarly, and I understand why, about The Shack, if you've ever come across that, although I know many found it helpful. The milieu of much conventional Protestantism does tend towards ascribing gender to God.

I would want, however, to hold out for some validity in a long mystical tradition (Julian of Norwich, the Spanish mystics and others) which uses strikingly feminine imagery for God, and my own views come closer to the official view of the Roman Church laid out in its catechism, which clearly declares the use of feminine images of God licit, as long as the transcendence of God over all human gender is proclaimed: I love the last phrase of the catechism on this, which expresses the truth the Roman Church is trying to protect by excluding for Catholics a purely male conception of God: “Haec paterna Dei teneritudo etiam per imaginem maternitatis exprimi potest, quae Dei immanentiam atque intimitatem inter Deum et Eius creaturam magis indicat. Ita sermo fidei in experientia humana haurit parentum, qui quodammodo pro homine primi sunt Dei repraesentantes. Haec tamen experientia etiam ostendit, parentes humanos fallibiles esse illosque vultum paternitatis et maternitatis deformare posse. Recordari igitur oportet, Deum humanam sexuum transcendere distinctionem. Ille nec vir est nec femina, Ille est Deus. Paternitatem etiam et maternitatem transcendit humanas, licet earum sit origo atque mensura: nemo pater est, sicut Deus est Pater.”

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