There are certain places or settings that fill me with grace and energy and love immediately. Often it is due to contrast, or the engenuity of humans. That grace and energy and love-which I will call God, but you can call lifeforce, universe, nature, creativity, happiness or Bob-it doesn’t matter. The fact is, it’s there. God is there, and in whatever form is best for you to see God as.
These two altars are around the corner from my house in Coyoacán. For many days I saw them with nothing on them, and then yesterday Mary had flowers. That’s when I chose to finally take a picture of the altars.
I am living in a middle-class suburb, and there is a lot of industry here for home improvement. Jesus and Mary are in front of a bathroom and kitchen tile store. The juxtaposition of these holy figures and the word baño is not funny to me. Jesus would have not given a second glance at where his image was, or who was looking. He just wanted us to know he was there. He’s still here.
It’s like the owners of the tile store are saying, “we see you, Jesus. We see you, Mary. Bless us. Thank you.”
Looking at Mary fills me with grace every time I see her image. It’s hard not to be humbled thinking about her, her story, her unrelenting faith in times of deep sorrow, devastation, judgement, pain. What I see in Mary is love. She was able to just see the love, and that was enough to sustain her and give her strength to endure the challenges that lay before her.
I used to look at Jesus’ image and think I had to be a certain way to claim that love. I had to believe X and worship in a specific place and believe in a specific way. At Christian Bible Club, which I was only allowed to go to for a short time, I picked up on the idea that if you’re not Christian you will go to hell. That is not at all what the Bible teaches, but that idea hurt my heart for a long time. It wasn’t until many years later that I understood that as one teacher’s interpretation. There are no limits to God’s love.
What is so wonderful about my new understanding of faith is that I just have to look for God everywhere. I have to calm down and breathe and let my soul connect to that wisdom. I have to allow that energy into me, and let it flow through. It’s different for me than it is for you, or my neighbor, or the person sitting next to me on the bus. We are all walking our own paths to grace and faith, and God is there for us in the way we need God to be. I resist using “he” when I say God, because I don’t think that God is specifically male. Jesus and Mary are obvious male and female archetypes, and I’m okay with using male and female pronouns to talk about them.
But God? I think God is beyond a binary description. That’s so human, to try to limit God. It seems ridiculous to assign a gender to God and put God in a certain box.
I hope I didn’t offend you, reader. Yet, this is deeply what makes sense to me. There is female energy to the God I understand, and male energy. There are billions of people on this planet living with so many beliefs about what God is, but the thing that unites every single one of us, is that God is Love and that God’s greatest desire is for us to live knowing the power of love.
Love is acceptance of things we do not understand. Love is knowing when we need to combat evil with grace and strength. Love is being honest about our own needs and Love is also about sacrificing our wants for someone else’s needs. Love is a powerful force and cannot be used for evil. Love is not always easy. Sometimes Love means hurting someone we Love and don’t want to hurt in order to live a more truthful, aligned life. Love can mean death and letting go of our ties to earthly things like possessions and lifestyles. Love is saying a final goodbye to beloved pets, friends, students that have left their earthly bodies and knowing that our pain is real, but also a reflection of Love. Love can be used to combat ugly political decisions and Love means saying “NO MORE.” Love doesn’t always mean things are magical and flowers are blooming and unicorns are prancing in the meadow. Sometimes Love is the path of the Warrior (as my hero Glennon Doyle would say) and it means a shakeup of power is coming and is overdue. Love doesn’t mean hate. Love doesn’t put up with injustice. Jesus didn’t. Mary didn’t. They kept it real and kept going, even in the face of so.much.challenge.
Love like you breathe FIRE, Dragons.