What I’m Reading: A Book on the Good Book

My past relationship with God has been one of many ups and downs. There are times we’ve been forced together. There are times we’ve been happy together. I’ve seen Him change and morph and I’ve been in love with numerous versions of Him, and he in turn has seen me undergo changes.

And now I treat Him like I treat most of my ex’s. I respect Him, love Him for what he gave me when I needed him. I honor Him and keep in touch, but we’re not close anymore. Not in the same way.

Maybe that’s why I felt inspired to read Sarah SentillesBreaking Up With God: A Love Story. Sentilles was raised a Roman Catholic, but then converted to the Episcopal church. She “fell in love” with God and started learning more. She received her masters of divinity and a doctorate in theology at Harvard Divinity School. And yet. And yet she still couldn’t reconcile the way she felt about God and religion with the things she witnessed in mainstream theology. And yet she still broke up with God.

Though I found the tail end of her memoir dragged a little (you left God. We get it), I related to so much that Sentilles had to say. Like me, she found herself in draining, toxic relationships (hers just happened to be with God). Like me, she had to learn to love herself before she could learn to properly love someone else. Like me, she was fascinated by religion and didn’t see any problem in feminist religious theories. Like me, she believed that reading the Bible is about interpreting what it says in a modern context; it’s about understanding that the Bible is not the end-all-be-all account of religion, and it is written by humans.

“This is what I believe in,” Sentilles writes. “Mystery. Agency. Creativity. Justice. Accountability. Love.” I can believe in all of that.

I’m not going to go off on another ventfest about what I believe. But I did find myself nodding along to much of what Sentille wrote. She argues that what humans love about God–His love and forgiveness and beauty and compassion–are human traits, human traits that we’ve then surrendered and projected onto God. We make them Godly because we think we don’t deserve them.

“What if there is no grand narrative?” she writes. “What is there is only the meaning found in everyday ethics, in trying to live with integrity, in the messy, nebulous, complicated work of caring for what’s around you…in trying not to harm another living being.”

Sentilles ultimately talks about food, which is something everyone can relate with. She talks about the humanity of treating everything we eat with respect. She writes about the beauty of compassion. And, in her own way, about the Sublime beauty that is my version of “God.”

“I used to sit on my deck in Idaho and watch the summer sunset…and I’d think about God.
“Now, I think about the sunset. Now I look around.
“In my search for God, I missed the world right here. Aspen. Lupine. Big Wood River. Red-winged blackbird. Elk. Mountain bluebird. Magpie. Sage.”

I’ve never been to Idaho, but it does sure sound Sublime.

Breaking Up with God: A Love Story by Sarah Sentilles, $18.

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