Thursday, August 17, 2017

Theology Thursday: Is God a Shepherd, a Scout Master or a Baker?

This is the introduction of occasional Theology Thursdays. Theo, latin for God, and ology, derived from logos, word. 

I believe that God exists, but it's not a simple relationship. Last year my foundational beliefs were jarred, and since then I look for new ways to understand how God is involved in my life. 

The writers of Psalms used metaphors like God as a shepherd. The shepherd (God) walks the sheep (me) through pleasant places (sometimes) and the valley of death. Rather than a walk through green pastures, 2016 blasted me with high winds and torrential problems that knocked me flat. I didn't find comfort there.

I looked to the New Testament. 

Jesus was onto a good thing when he used parables, which are analogies in a story form. Jesus's parable of the house built on sand came to mind. My life was the house, and it was either built on a solid foundation (God) or sand (anything else.) My house was falling apart in the rising flood waters, so what did that say about my foundation? 

The parable doesn't include rebuilding, but I kept hoping God would come back to the ruin and fix me. Circumstances deteriorated further. If He wasn't going to rescue me, was there at least some silver lining? If there was I missed it. Was there at least some new insight I could clutch as my reward? 
from Pinterest

It reminded me of my time as a Girl Scout. One of the badges we earned was the difficult knot badge. We tied knots that would hitch a boat to a dock, or securely suspend a hammock in a tree. Once the requirements were satisfied, we got to sew the medallion embroidered with a knot onto its place in the neat rows of our uniform sashes. 

Maybe my recent experience was designed to untie the knot when faith and reason tangled: Who is God and how do I relate to him?  How involved in my world is He?

After tugging on loose ends, and making the mess worse, I was still mystified about the Scout Master. What badge was I working on? Purpose in pain? Character Development through Loss? 

I gave up that line of thinking and created a bread analogy.

Maybe the spiritual life is like a batch of bread dough. Once the yeast is added, it's kneaded. It felt as though divine knuckles pressed, and  strong hands squeezed me.  The punishing purpose is to make the bread light and chewy.  Then the dough is put aside in a warm place. (I was feeling heat alright.) It rises, proof that the dough is alive with yeast. But the bread is not yet at its best. The baker punches it back down again to rise a second time. 

"The second rising, or proofing, gives a better volume, a more mellow yeast flavor and a finer texture to breads." 

Did you catch that word, proofing? I'd like to believe the difficult circumstances in the not-distant-enough past are working to prove me stronger, more resilient, refined. 

For now I'll stick to the bread comparison. But the next step for bread is a hot oven, and that makes me nervous. 

How do you understand the hard things that happen to each of us? What's your theology?