After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”
What kind of God is this we worship?
What kind of God asks this of a father? The narrator knows perfectly well how appalling this story is. He/ She hammers it home with all those clauses-- your son... your only son Isaac... whom you love... Take him and kill him.
Good God. Good? God?
What kind of God is this? Is this a God at all acceptable to us? Which, I recognize, is perhaps not the question we creatures get to ask about our Creator. But how do we reconcile our understanding of an all-good and all-just God with fragments of our tradition that seem to tell a very different story?
I have lately been reading the occasional blog of a gay man living in a heterosexual marriage, and trying very hard to stay faithful to his marriage vows. This is, obviously, a complicated situation, especially when there are children involved. But occasionally the man will state that he believes God wants him to stay in this marriage.
Well, that's what I thought about my marriage. I married my college sweetheart. Everyone knew we were the perfect couple, and we hung on to that reputation for years-- even as I showed signs of poor health and he and I grew distant from one another. And then there were the women I kept falling in love with.
I have vivid memories of being in my car, weeping and praying, "Please, God, help me to be faithful. Help me to love my husband the way he deserves to be loved. Help me to stop feeling these feelings." I believed that God wanted me to stay in that marriage. And I hung on, with bleeding fingernails.
Of course, my husband came to other conclusions. And thank God. Thank God! Thank God he came to the conclusion that this was not the marriage he wanted. And then I was free to be the person I struggled not to be for so many years.
I have come to the conclusion that the God who wanted me to stay married was a figment of my imagination. Like the God who asks a man to offer his son as a burnt offering, I think that God was a projection of my own fantasies and fears. I don't think that is the God we worship at all. The God we worship is in favor life abundant-- has given it to us, actually, if we can muster our courage to reach out and take it.
For Abraham, I believe life abundant amounted to hearing, somewhere in the universe, another voice besides the one that urged him to sacrifice Isaac. That other voice turns out to have been the real deal. The first one? Cultural influences, perhaps. Peer pressure. Family/ Tribal pressure, "This is the way it has always been" pressure. But not God. Not the real God, Good God.
For me, I cannot say that I regret staying in my marriage as long as I did. I did what I thought was right-- don't we all? But I thank God that a door opened in the brick wall that had been my life. I thank God that the weeping woman in the car eventually was able to know the joy of loving whom she loved, period. I thank God.
Abraham called that place, "The Lord Will Provide." Amen.