“I don’t know what it means to say that Christ “died for my sins” (who wants that? who invented that perverse calculus?), but I do understand—or intuit, rather—the notion of God not above or beyond or immune to human suffering, but in the very midst of it, intimately with us in our sorrow, our sense of abandonment, our hellish astonishment at finding ourselves utterly alone, utterly helpless.” Christian Wiman My Bright Abyss
I’m not sure what Wiman means. (Although I’m afraid I might agree if I did.) It does not help that he used the word “calculus.” What I do understand—“the notion of God not above or beyond or immune to human suffering”—I do not find to be very original. Perhaps that is not his goal.
I share this quote in full to give a little context to the last segment: “God . . . in the very midst of it, intimately with us in . . . our sense of abandonment, our hellish astonishment at finding ourselves utterly alone, utterly helpless.” God with us.
Is he serious? When we are “utterly alone?” Abandoned? “Utterly helpless?” By and because of God herself? At least Wiman calls it a notion, not a fact. Because I don’t sense/feel/understand/ fill-in-the-blank it.
God, he says, simultaneously allows us to feel searing loneliness while . . . standing by our side? No, no, not simply standing, but being “intimately with us.” It’s lovely. How it is written. I actually wrote it down for that reason: it is lovely. But it whispers of the idea that if only I would turn, God will be there. It’s my fault. God never walked out. He is omnipresent.
Right. Which is not a strong enough word. My actual response? Fuck that. But I’m trying not to swear so much.
So present that she can hide herself and be present? (!) It doesn’t make sense. (And, you say, God doesn’t have to make sense.) (So I say, shut up.)
“Our hellish astonishment.”
Yes. That it is. A God who is said to be omni-whatever suddenly or gradually gone, leaving us “utterly alone, utterly helpless,” and in the most torturous way.
Sure, I understand it as a “notion.” But not as a reality.
Perhaps, though, perhaps I am being unfair. The godliness that I believe in most is that which shines (or glowers, or peeks, or . . .) out of another being’s eyes, words (written or spoken), and heart, by virtue of listening, of hearing. If I believe in and observe these, even amidst the most godforsaken, lonely, abandoned, helpless times of my life, then I believe in and observe God despite it all. And when I say “thank you,” or even feel a smidgen of gratitude, I acknowledge God’s existence in my otherwise abandoned state.