Veiled Valentine from God

Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke (Psalm 144).

I’d like to see that! God’s finger, crooked for a crokinole shot, coming down through the clouds, flicking off the cap of a mountain and sending up clouds of black smoke. If I saw that, I’d run like hell, but I’d believe. That is, I’d believe in something like an Almighty that messes with mountains. But I wouldn’t necessarily be put in mind to believe in the God of the gospels—the one Jesus referenced while holding forth on hill and plain. That’s the God that interests me, bewitches me, beguiles me, angers me—the hidden God, the gone-away God, the God behind the anthro-god. The God darkly veiled in incarnational mystery.

The maven Simone Weil has thoughts here. She said, apparently without blinking, that the absence of God is proof of God’s existence. Well, the madness of genius was upon dear Simone, and so she could say things like that.

I don’t understand everything, perhaps very little of what that Simone Weil says; I’m just held captive by the beauty of her equations.

She worked it out that creation is, only because God withdrew. That is, God’s self-decreation (my clumsy term that may in fact not be mine) made the cosmos possible; and the cosmos remains extant because God is hidden and self-limiting. And in that self-limitation, according to Simone, God proves her love for us by her absence. For if God was present, we couldn’t, wouldn’t, be. (Perhaps at best, we would be zombie-slaves.)

But is existence enough? If life is well-lived and loved, sure. If life is suffered? What then?

It’s reasonable and legitimate to argue God’s nonexistence through God’s absence, and through the presence of suffering, and the fact of evil. Simone however turns this over and says God’s creation-by-self-limitation explains the entrance of suffering and pain.

The discovery of God as vulnerable and powerless is, to my mind, the way of Christian faith. This not the triumphant God, the omnipotent God, the God of prosperity, the God contained by creed, the apocalyptic God brandished by system-Christianity—or the mountain decapitating God.

God’s absence is not only necessary for our being, it is also, in some admittedly ineffable way, necessary for our freedom. This raises the question: what then of our responsibility in the face of a powerless God, or rather, a God who chooses to act only through power of love?

It seems to me then that responsibility to love becomes personal necessity, not only for my life, but for the life, health and breath of those around me. And in this way every caring and kind act reveals a bit more of God. God shows up when we help someone, when we draw a beautiful picture, or send a valentine. 

To paraphrase Miester Echart, Every act reveals God and expands God’s being. I know that may be hard to comprehend. But all creatures are doing their best to help God in the birth of God’s-self.

God’s Valentine to us, it turns out, is a fully human and sacred one, expressed and offered through eyes of friends and strangers.


  1. Some good theology here, Steve: also some provocative, but that’s what you do, right?

    I remember a theology instructor of mine saying once, that we’re usually right in what we affirm, and usually wrong in what we deny.

    The absolute genius of the Christian faith, I believe, is that we have a God who emptied himself (Phil. 2). But if we don’t have a God who can flick mountains, all the wrath we might muster contra the injustices of our world can only be demonic rage.

  2. I think what I mean is that I’m not willing to concede that the Christian God is only a vulnerable and powerless God. To be sure, He has so revealed Himself in Jesus. And the way of the cross is a participation in that vulnerable and powerless way of life, and a way of identifying with the vulnerable and powerless whom we find in that way. But I believe that there must also be a place for wrath and power – for smoking mountains. Injustice incurs God’s wrath. And, when I’m aware enough, it also incurs mine – and in that way I believe I participate with God in His wrath. If there is not such a God with whom to identify in wrath, our wrath becomes a self-expression – self-idolatrous, untrustworthy, dangerouse, indeed demonic. (I’m working on this)

  3. Perhaps we both need to work on our premises. Your premise: “Injustice incurs God’s wrath,” assumes there is wrath in God and therefore it must be a righteous and holy wrath; a wrath that we, if we are aware, (righteous, holy?) enough, justifies or allows our wrath a close identification with God’s wrath therefore receiving God’s endorsement and keeping it from becoming anything from untrustworthy to demonic. My premise is simply that the see-me-and-you-see-the-Father-Jesus revealed God as being entirely without wrath. He stepped in front of our sacred wrath and exposed it for what it is, “self-idolatrous.” And the resurrection is the completely gratuitous forgiving invitation to lay aside our wrath. (I’m attempting to undergo this.) But now I also don’t know what to do about Jesus’ apparent wrath or anger in the synagogue, or over the fig tree…I’m working on this.

  4. You wrote: “My premise is simply that the see-me-and-you-see-the-Father-Jesus revealed God as being entirely without wrath.” My comment would be that Jesus revealed, not a God without wrath, but a God who became the object of his own wrath, who revealed a much different response to wrath. This leaves room for wrath, as dangerous and scary as that might be.

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