Wednesday, 8 August 2007

God in a Bottle

We 21st century urbanites harbour grave doubts about tap water, fruit picked from the roadside, and animals that come complete with toenails. We like our beverages in plastic bottles; apples with little stickers specifying their variety and lot number; and animals that have been appropriately groomed, leashed, and otherwise rendered harmless. We like things that have been well measured and counted and regulated; treated and stamped and packaged; filed and trimmed and sanitized. What lies beyond our control, or the control of the vast network of machines we have created to expand and maintain the reaches of our great domain, is plainly not to be trusted.

On top of all that, we want convenience. We no longer have to knead bread dough, or wait for it to rise. We just pop by the corner store on the way home. We figure we can pick up an understanding of world events with just as little effort from half an hour spent watching the 5 o'clock news.

And this is one of our main issues with God.

We'd be happy with a lap dog, one who'd sit when we said sit, and wag his tail nicely at passers-by. If only he'd do things as we want them done, we'd happily drop our tithes into the box on Sundays, and offer to bring potato salad to church functions. If only he'd offer digitally recorded, downloadable seminars in 15-minute segments covering the major aspects of his character, we'd see that our friends were well-informed. We'd even donate to help send the VHS versions to Africa and Indonesia. At the very least, he ought to be quite evident to someone who sits through an hour-long sermon every Sunday.

After all, how can we be expected to trust a God who won't perform miracles when we ask for them, refuses to submit himself to any sort of inspection, fails to mount a marketing campaign, and is liable to up and let us die of some painful disease in the end of it all, in spite of all our belief in him?

I've often heard, from someone admiring the exuberance and freedom of a child, the beauty of a sunset, or the joy of a couple deeply in love - "if only I could bottle that..."

We'd love to have God in a bottle - a personal genie who could prove us right and amaze our friends, heal our relatives, keep the neighbour's cat from digging in our garden; a well-behaved God who would always do what we think best; a friendly grandfather-type who'd be grateful for our forgiveness of his eccentricities and who'd do his best to keep difficulty from our door. We could give him an updated look when he lost brand appeal, and label him "new and improved"...

Some things can't be bottled.

1 comment:

joeyanne said...

Amazing how our ideas about God constantly need revision. I find myself unconsciously thinking He is that magic genie-in-a-bottle without even realizing it's creeping in. I guess that's why it's so important to constantly keep thinking! and reading and considering God. He is uncategorizable (nice made-up word!) and I am unable to put Him into a neat little box, labeled "God". The more I learn about God, the more I realize how much I don't understand Him at all!