The Personalist Project

Accessed on June 08, 2023 - 4:50:14

God is a Personalist: the anecdotal evidence

Devra Torres, Jul 09, 2012

A couple months ago, I posted on God’s fondness for diversity.  How else to explain His making us male and female (“as different as possible without being separate species”), different colors, shapes, and sizes, with different temperaments, talents, and senses of humor? 

It would be surprising, then, if His dealings with us had a generic, one-size-fits-all kind of tone.   Yet that is what we can fall into imagining.

In the back of our minds, even if we know better, may lurk the sense that what God really wants is for us to familiarize ourselves with His objective rules and regulations, calculate how they apply to our case, and conform our wills and behavior to them until we die.  Then we’ll be allowed into the place where only the most successful conformists are admitted.

If we’re in doubt about God’s will, we might think, that’s what the Magisterium is for.  No need to bother Him with a request for a personal audience.  He has more sublime things to do.  Go look it up in the Catechism. 

Yes, we know we’re instructed to ask for our daily bread, but it would probably be a lot more respectful to just stick to “Thy will be done” and leave it at that.   Why bother Him with specifics? There’s a sense that He cares about the salvation of our soul, and our progress in virtue—which will happen, sure as Doritos falling to the slot when you push the Doritos button,

if we just obey the rules.  All the rest is surely beneath His notice, and would be beneath ours, too, if we were a little holier.  We should be grateful He created us at all and gave us a chance to go to Heaven.  Only little minds get mired in details.

Well, here’s my evidence to the contrary.  This happened just the way I’m about to recount it:

Early one icy New Hampshire Wednesday morning, I sat slumped at the kitchen table, dithering over whether go to mass.  On the one hand, the hardest part was over: I’d already come out from under the covers, and I was mostly vertical.  On the other hand, the icicle outside my window was six feet long and as wide as my two-year-old.

On the other hand, it was no colder than usual for this season, this latitude—and the 7AM was the only Mass on offer that day. 

But on the OTHER hand, a whiny voice inside my head chimed in, it was just a WEEKDAY Mass.  It wouldn’t be a SIN or something to stay home and stealthily devour a nice, big bowl of the kids’ tasty General Mills Honeycomb® cereal before they woke up...and I couldn’t do that and get to Mass too, because by now it was well into communion-fast time.  I stared at the Honeycomb.  Those little hexagonal nuggets of sugar and toxic chemicals were looking more irresistible by the second.  I was far too old to be tempted by such stuff, and yet…

That thought almost finished off my better instincts, but a small shot of grace kicked in just then, and I threw on my coat and heroically strode out the door.  A few minutes later, as I sat slowly defrosting in the pew, a word from the responsorial psalm hit me right between my half-closed eyes:

The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold. Sweeter also than honey and the HONEYCOMB...

Well, that was enough to keep me awake for the rest of Mass.  I knew King David didn’t have General Mills Honeycomb® in mind when he and the Holy Spirit composed that line thousands of years ago.  But the Holy One of Israel knew even then how it would all play out as St. Joseph's in Claremont, on that far-distant Wednesday morning.

I knew He was omniscient, the inventor of both the real honeycomb and the intellects and imaginations of the people who had invented its namesake, the cold cereal that had almost tempted me away from the Bread of Life.  I shouldn't have been surprised that He could orchestrate this staggering, millenia-long, intersecting arrangement of ancient poetry, insect behavior, junk-food marketing strategy, and liturgical rhythms.

But what kind of a God would bother?

Not a humorless accountant type, with no patience for the details when it comes to arranging a special treat for one of His children.  

No, I think we have to concede that, for lack of a better word, He's a personalist.