I have just finished reading a memoir by Barbara Ehrenreich named Living with a Wild God. She has written several important books, some used in sociology classes, such as Nickled and Dimed in America, a book about how difficult it is to live on a minimum wage.
In her spiritual memoir, Living with a Wild God, she talks about a lifetime of spiritual experiences that she cannot explain with her scientific background and at the end of the book asks that the scientific community not give up on investigating spiritual experiences or the question ‘why’ which she says really means ‘who.’ And this who, she says, seems to be pursuing us.
There are several things about this statement and the memoir that are interesting, not the least of which is that the author is an atheist and a scientist. She does not think that she can call this being, if it is a being, “God” because she thinks that we have outgrown notions of “gods.” Her experiences as she has tried to search for the truth do not fit into any framework that she has for understanding the universe. And, yet, she will not deny them because she knows what she has experienced.
This intelligence that she encountered in experiences that are almost impossible to explain in words, is not the God that she has heard spoken of so casually. However, this sounds a lot like the Living God, “I Am” of scripture. This was not a small, easily explained, loving presence that fits neatly into a box but an enormous light-filled power. These are experiences that can be frightening in their otherness.
Last Sunday, we read the account of Abraham taking Isaac up onto the mountain to sacrifice him. I am wondering if Abraham’s encounters with this Wild God were equally as frightening and impossible to put into words as the encounters of Ehrenreich.
Are we, who love to explain everything, who love to test and measure everything, putting forth too simplistic a view of God?
I am inclined to think so.
I had one seminary professor, who would say that we should remember that God is larger than our God. And, our theology professor, Alan Lewis, began our course in theology with the thought that with God being so large and other, existing before time and space, how could we even find words to express ‘who’ this God is, a being so totally other. He equated it to being like a jester. And, yet, for those of us who have been drawn into the service of the living God, we must continue to try to express what we can and do know.
Ehrenreich approached life with a desire to know the Truth about life and its purpose. She encountered this “Other” in the desert as a young teen after dedicating herself to the pursuit of Truth and has spent her life working for peace and justice. It seems to me that she met the God whom I serve and whom she has served as well.
My greatest teacher I have only met in writing said, “whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Ehrenreich has been concerned with being the voice of the marginalized and the defender of the poor and forgotten. This life of service to humankind grew out of her search for the Truth and purpose of life.
I recommend reading the book. She may open your eyes to the Wild God, the God who is bigger than all we know of God, the God who comes (Carlo Carretto) and is pursuing a relationship with you and me and everyone.