Who or What Is God?

by Diana Rankin

For some, this question—who or what is God?—is answered in the religion in which they believe. For others, the answer may be in science. For those of us walking the spiritual path, the question of who or what is God may be found in the answer I came to when I was a girl. Here’s my story.

I was kicked out of Sunday School when I was seven. I asked too many questions, but it was one in particular that got me into trouble. Why do we have to talk to Jesus instead of talking directly to God? The church elders sent me upstairs to be in the older adult class with my grandmother. The reasoning was that Grandma would silence my curiosity.

My mother was also a member of the church, but I guess the church powers thought Mother had enough on her hands with my older brother and me—especially me—with her being a single parent; this in the days when moms weren’t single, at least not good twice-on-Sunday-and-every-Wednesday-night-church-going-moms. Mother was also the church pianist, a revolutionary place for a divorcee, no matter how pious. My family always was a little different from the rest of the parishioners. Grandma bought new carpet for the church, which covered a lot of our sins like my ballet lessons and my brother’s love of his drums and rock music, and of course Mother’s divorce.

It wasn’t her fault really. My father stuck around long enough to plant sufficient sperm for two babies, and then he disappeared from our lives well before I was kicked out of Sunday School. I never got the chance to tell him I was kicked into the adult class because I asked too many questions—or at least the wrong question.

I wasn’t being smart-alecky. I truly wanted to know, but the very nature of the question was too esoteric for a child’s mind and that Sunday School teacher’s ability to answer. So I went to the older adult class, sat quietly beside Grandma, and observed. In that way, I learned. I listened to adults talk about the right way to behave on Sunday and watched them behave the opposite way on Monday. I learned that we love our neighbors but only if they look and act like we do. I learned that the person who gave the most money was forgiven the most sins. I learned that a smile didn’t always mean friendship. And I learned that religion makes God small and takes away self-responsibility and recognition of our true spiritual nature.

Is this to say that all religious people are hypocritical? No. Absolutely not. Is it to say that religion is wrong? No. Absolutely not. I believe religion in our world is needed. It comforts people and does much good in our world.

It is to say that what I saw as a child influenced what I believe God is.

As a child, I knew I didn’t belong in the church, but I also knew there was something valuable here for me. I found it one Wednesday evening at prayer meeting while kneeling beside my grandmother, her eyes closed in prayer. I watched her, watched the lines in her face, the quietness of her lips, and the movement of her eyes behind their lids. She opened those eyes. They smiled at me. Then very slowly, she put one finger at her upward-curved lips. With her other hand, she squeezed my fingers in hers. It was in that moment that I knew the best prayer of all. It was love.

It was in that moment that I also knew what God is.  God is Love. And I knew I wanted to live my life as a prayer with every breath as sacred. I knew in that moment—that sacred moment—that everyone is sacred and so am I; that we are a part of God; that we are Love.

I haven’t always remembered that I am sacred, not by a long shot. But I do come back to it when I stray away from the truth of myself, of all beings. I return to that memory of Grandma looking down at me letting me know the greatest prayer of all is one of love.

Let your prayers be of love—love for yourself, for those nearest and those far away, for all humans and all creatures of the earth, and love for the greatest of all—a God that rises above while also working through our humanness and shows us the truth of ourselves—We are one Spirit, one God, expressing through our humanity.

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