I Like God

“I like God,” is what my young son told my wife once. Now, to be sure, he also liked baseball, drawing, the beach, motorcycles, playgrounds, big work machines, and Batman. We had him in a Christian preschool at the time, so undoubtedly he picked up some of his likeable ideas about God there. But his teachers also made him recite Bible verses in public assembly, and I remember he unintentionally brought the house down, and brought some embarrassment to his mother, when he quoted the following:

“And Jesus said: ‘I am in the way of the truth and the life.'”

Well, I’m a son too, and I tried out this notion of “I like God” on my own father, who is a Christian minister. Lately, we like to talk about a lot of things together. I’d been telling him how I liked that Facebook only has a “like” button and not a “dislike” button. This was following our discussion of Dallas Willard’s “acid test of theology” (i.e., whether the theology in the test will “set a lovable God–a radiant, happy, friendly, accessible, and totally competent being–before ordinary people”). And we’d also already talked about how poet and translator Anne Carson, who knows something about gods, tried to answer the question about her relationship with God this way (allowing Dad’s conversation with me to approach that “Acid Test” of lovability); Carson says:

the best one can hope for as a human is to have a relationship with that emptiness where God would be if God were available, but God isn’t…. He’s not available because he’s not a being of a kind that would fit into our availability. “Not knowable” as the mystics would say. And knowing is what a worshipper wants to get from God, the sense of being in an exchange of knowledge, knowing and being known. It’s what anybody wants from any relationship of love and the relationship with God is supposed to be one of love. But I don’t think any kind of knowing is ever going to materialize between humans and gods.

So we’d gone from Carson to Willard to Facebook. To be sure, Dad has not yet read Carson; he had read Willard (but declared to Mom, who liked Willard’s book apparently too much, that “Dallas Willard is NOT God”); and he only occasionally visits FB. “I like the ‘like’ button on Facebook,” I’d told him. And then I mused, “I wonder if God should be likable. I’d like for God to like me. Then I think I could say, ‘I like God.'”

To this he replied, as if reassuring:

“Kurk, God doesn’t just like you. He loves you.”

Well, of course he does, I thought to myself and said so to Dad, adding, “God has to love, doesn’t he?”

Where we left it, or rather where I’d hope we would leave it if we could agree, is that likability is as important as lovability. Well, likability might have been more important to me, especially when I was growing up as I’d hear my Dad insist to my older brother who was bigger than me and was bullying me:

“You don’t have to like your brother. But you’d better make sure you show him love, or else.”

And my brother, to be sure, would mind Dad, showing his love, to me his little brother, but only just enough love, because he had to show some.

Please know, nonetheless, that to this day my elder brother and I still show love and respect to each other, and still defend the other when necessary. Maybe it’s because the nature of our family. Maybe there are times when we have to stand up for each other. Maybe we have to love each other, to show it. We are, after all, in a relationship; we are related.  To this day, however, my brother still doesn’t like me very much. And, for my part, I’d say the feeling is still mutual; on Facebook, where we’re friends, neither of us extends that “like” to the other very much. But it’s not just the little “like” but rather a big condition of our hearts, our minds, our volitions, our bodies. There’s not some formula I have for liking my brother.

So I think a good bit about our English words “love” and “God” and “like.” And through all my recent readings and conversations and thought, I like to remember when my little boy once could say so sincerely, so profoundly, so simply and so small, “I like God.”

coda

When i was young
It seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees
Well they´d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, oh playfully watching me
But then they sent me away
To teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible ,practical
And they showed me a world
Where i could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical

There are times when all the world´s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won´t you please, please tell me what we´ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who i am

Now watch what you say
Or they´ll be calling you a radical
A liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
Oh won´t you sign up your name
We´d like to feel you´re
Acceptable, respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable!

At night when all the world´s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won´t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who i am, who i am ,who i am.

Supertramp, “The Logical Song”

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6 responses to “I Like God

  1. Having a big brother can be (what shall we say?) “problematic”, can’t it?

    I often say (even in his hearing) that my brother and I only started to get on (and, perhaps, to like each other) when he left home and we didn’t have to live under the same roof. And yet those shared memories and experiences of our childhood are important to us now; in some way they define us and the unique relationship we have; one that no-one else shares.

    Looking back, sometimes I suspected that my parents loved my brother more; he just seemed to be good at everything (and still is; he’s “the practical one”). But, in reality, that was probably just me feeling inferior to other people in general. (The trouble is that we can only really see inside our own heads, so we don’t see how other people see themselves.) There are, of course, things that I’m better at then he is, but it’s just that those things aren’t really very “useful” when it comes to everyday life. I think I finally got over it when I realised just how much my father admired me for being able to do some of those not-very-useful things, even though he had little “use” for them himself. I realised then that my parents had, in the main, got past comparing their children, and simply loved each of us on our own terms.

    Families! Who’d have them? (And who’d want to be without them?)

    I’m entirely with you on that love/like thing: I don’t just want God to love me because “that’s what he does”; I really hope he likes me too. Some people can be nice to us because they are nice people; but we’d really prefer them to be nice to us because they like us – because of what we are rather than what they are.

    • You make me feel better about how I feel about my brother and think about God! Many thanks for your testimony, your own story and experience. Does the Cain and Abel narrative also help us? Jacob and Esau? Isaac and Ishmael? Jesus and his brothers? Probably it does. (and I tend to like how God seems to like each too). Thanks for your brotherly friendship here.

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