God always seemed so “other” from me.
I had a kindergarten teacher who was about 95. If she ever liked children it was before both world wars. Miss Gibbs was mean-spirited and downright cruel. Midway through each afternoon we took a nap on mats brought from home. I had a fringed rug a quilting group made for my mother. Danny had a pink blanket. I never slept during rest period, but Danny always did. When the period was over the teacher would gather all the children around a sleeping Danny. At her signal we would yell, “Danny, wake up!!” The teacher would laugh and laugh as a startled Danny jumped to his feet. I’m sure Danny is still in therapy. That kindergarten teacher was very “other” from me.
For too long God was the kindergarten teacher—aloof, distant, maybe even cruel. He liked his power and was almost impossible to please. If you grew up a Protestant Fundamentalist or a pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, you knew this God.
A few years ago there was an insanely popular book called The Shack. The plot was thin and the book was not well written, but there were two images I adored. God was a formidable Black woman and the Holy Spirit a wispy Asian. I fell in love with both, which was hard to do given the thin plot and all. Honestly, I am not sure I finished the book. But those two women remain—one anchored to the earth with a fierce love, and the other floating in mystery.
This God, this Black woman, holds me to her breast and sings old Irish tunes. (Yes, she’s Irish—not the God in the book—the one who holds me. I don’t know why. She just is.) The Spirit moves around the cozy room in tiny steps, her shoulder-length hair blowing in the breeze that wafts through the kitchen window. She invites me to take her hand and spin. I hesitate. They are both so close, these women who love. I am afraid. This God, she is other from me, and I am afraid. But I take her hand and spin.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Nathan Jones