Making God human
Lately, I’ve been thinking about God more often.
It’s not because I’m having a religious awakening, and neither am I having a crisis of faith. I am still the same Catholic who goes to Mass on Sunday and tries in vain not to sin for the rest of the week, and although I have doubts, they are not strong enough to make me consider leaving the Church. No, my thoughts about God are more about His nature—or should I say, portrayal—as an immortal, perfect, benevolent being. I try to imagine how it must be like to have such power, especially in a world as dangerous as ours.
Generations have come and gone, but humankind is still dealing with the same problems over and over again. Many still die of hunger, preventable diseases, and wars that probably shouldn’t have started in the first place. The poor can work themselves to exhaustion trying to get the education, jobs, and healthcare they need, while the rich are almost assured of all of these, and more.
I was shielded from the worst of things, so maybe I shouldn’t talk. But I do know enough to say that awful things, many of them senseless and undeserved, happen in real life. Now, when I watch television or look at my Twitter feed, and see bad news about anything from a house fire to the Marcos burial, my thoughts turn to the Almighty who is probably sitting in Heaven and surveying all of His creation from above.
There is a consensus that God is all-powerful. He can do anything. Why else do we pray to Him when we have upcoming exams or relatives dying of cancer? The vast majority of people have some form of religion; they belong to various movements that seek to bring members closer to God while promising other benefits at the same time. These religions, more often than not, offer worship services, where the faithful seek God’s answers to their collective prayers. Somewhere, a Mass is being held; somewhere else, children are calling out to God by their bedside. An awful lot of people seek God’s guidance and protection every day. How does He hear everyone, without confusing one person’s prayer with someone else’s? How does He comprehend all those languages and dialects, and find out the real meaning despite grammatical errors? More importantly, how does He decide which prayers to grant?
Are some urgent prayers answered immediately, while the less important ones are put on varying waiting lists? If a prayer isn’t granted, is it (heresy!) due to a limit in His ability, or is there a deeper reason the petition should not pass? I’m sure a lot of amputees are waiting to find an answer to that question. Would it destroy the universe if they were given the miraculous ability to regrow their lost limbs?
People also say that God, who is good, created humankind in His own image, and that all of His creation is good. If that were true, surely we can expect humanity to be good. But as we can see in reality, humans sin almost as regularly as they do something kind for others. Before you mention the story of the Fall, remember that God is supposed to be omniscient, or all-knowing. He probably knew what Adam and Eve were going to do, so why did He not stop them, or better yet, make them stronger so they wouldn’t be tempted? Why put the tree in the middle of the garden at all, if it could only lead to ruin? Did He miss something, or was this whole thing planned out from Day One?
I could go on and on. Whole books have been written about God’s powers, and various authors have offered their opinions on the subject. But my biggest questions are less about what God can do, and more about How he thinks and feels, and experiences being, well, the Supreme Being.
Does God ever get tired listening to prayers, like those of students who always forget to study but run back to church whenever the finals come around?
Does God ever regret creating humanity, especially now, when we seem to have strayed so far from being perfect and good?
Does God wish He could have a break from His enormous responsibilities in running the world, and imagine Himself as carefree and silly, like us sometimes?
When I asked my mother about this one day, she said I was making God human, which wasn’t right. But I don’t see much of an alternative as of now. I am doing the same thing the writer of Revelation probably did when describing Heaven: taking things from my own limited experience and trying to apply them to an abstract concept. Just as John, or whoever he was, described the splendor of Heaven by talking about pearly gates and streets of gold, I am attempting to imagine God by drawing parallels between Him and other people around me, with the aid of things I’ve read. And I will probably continue doing so forever. Or at least until the day I wake up and suddenly have the truth dawn on me.
Of course, I could accept the “mysterious ways” argument and continue living my life, but that has always seemed quite unsatisfying. After all, why did God give me curiosity if I could not use it to wonder about Him?
Athena Alanis, 17, is in Grade 11 (Senior High School, ABM strand) at Ateneo de Naga University.
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