I am not much of a dreamer, in the literal sense. In fact, for years, one of the first indicators of illness was dreaming, because that was the only time I dreamed. As my insomnia has receded some in the last two years, I’ve started dreaming more often, but I don’t enjoy it. My dreams are stressful, upsetting, and often hard to shake when I first wake up.
Two nights ago, I stayed up much later than I had since I stopped working two jobs and I slept terribly. All night long, I dreamed that a friend’s preschooler, Edith, had assumed all the power in the universe. My ability – or inability – to sleep rested in Edith’s hands. Each time I woke up, I wasn’t lucid enough to fully realize that I’d been dreaming, so each time, I found myself begging Edith to let me sleep. Each time, it was a desperate prayer to this sweet little girl to release my tired self back into my slumber. I only slept about four and a half hours that night.
Anne Lamott’s writings are fairly new to me, but in one of her books (Help, Thanks, Wow), she writes about how the divine can be called an endless list of things. English-speaking Christians call it God, Germans say Gott, Arabs use Allah, and so on, but we are all talking about the divine. In Hebrew and Christian texts, the divine has many names, according to the writer’s choice of imagery or relative to the role the divine is playing. Lamott tells a story about how through a somewhat serendipitous event one afternoon, she ended up calling God “Phil” for a period of time.
When I woke up after my drowsy encounters with Edith, I told my friends about it. It seemed pretty funny to think of God being named “Edith,” but then I remembered Lamott’s story. The more I thought about it, the the less uncomfortable it seemed.
See, to be honest, God and I have been rather stubborn with each other lately (or, as usual, I have been really stubborn with God lately). I have struggled with some of the routine things that have plagued humanity for ages: why let my friend’s baby be so sick? Why do people still keep carrying out such heinous things in God’s name – more so, why does God allow people to do them? Why do some seemingly wicked people seem to have all the luck while good people suffer? Why does it seem like God just isn’t listening?
I know the answers I would give to people who ask me these questions. I know the answers others give. I’ve read Job and Ecclesiastes and all the rest of it to know that in the end, God is God, and God is certainly not accountable to me. But it doesn’t change how I feel about it.
One of my favorite movies is Then She Found Me. It’s about a very sincere woman who is going through a crisis of faith, and in one of the strongest scenes, the protagonist’s mother instructs her to pray. She tells her mother that she can’t because she isn’t so sure that God is as good as she used to believe. Her mother responds, “Maybe God is just, well, difficult. Complicated.” The daughter simply responds “like me?”
I find myself in a lot of those moments lately. I find myself frustrated with the way God is handling things, confused because it often doesn’t make sense to my feeble brain, and struggling to find God as approachable as I used to. If God and I had a Facebook relationship, it would be filed somewhere under “it’s complicated.”
I have a lot of baggage associated with “God” right now, but at the risk of sounding half-crazy, “Edith” and I are on OK terms. While not actually changing the person of the divine, right now, I am far more comfortable changing God’s name to Edith. It’s not that I am changing who I worship, but Edith is far more approachable. In the end, I don’t think that God is threatened or insulted by me using a different name in the mean time. I mean it no differently than when the Old Testament writers used one Hebrew name instead of another; they all knew that they were talking about the same deity. It’s only really in personal prayers that I’ll call God “Edith” – I’m not going to go to church and sing songs to Edith or anything.
I just think that for right now, it seems to be making my relationship with the divine a little easier.
Maybe I am half-crazy. I can think of at least a dozen people who would get their undies in a bunch just for suggesting that I could use a different name for God. Well, they can suck it. Because so far, I’ve had more peace talking to Edith about what is frustrating me than I’ve had in a while. Besides, if God is too big of a baby to not get the big picture in all of this, God is not the deity I want to serve anyways.