Two weeks ago I wrote from Paul Tillich's claim via Diana Butler Bass that God is the "ground of our being." We should understand who God is from being "down here" and not depend singly on the understanding the God is from some lofty refined perch we imagine heaven to be.
The graphic above gets at one important aspect of that place we share with God "down here." This is moving from Tillich's perspective and wondering closer to the points Diana Butler Bass makes in her recent work "Grounded." For sure she shares the sense that God is with us down here but she wants to and digs further to get at those traits of faith that last.
One of the ways she envisions our moving forward is to look honestly at our roots. To tell the truth about our families and our heritage and to stay close to the hard parts, to read between the lines and to remember that God is with us still.
She tells the story of President Obama's family tree as he learned it:
"he heard a genealogy recited by his granny: 'first there was Miwiru . . . Miwiru sired Sigona, sigoma sired Owiny.' The lineage was accompanied by stories, mostly of betrayal and abandonment, that revealed to the young man a new understanding of his life:
'I felt the circle finally close. I realized who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation . . . '"Most of us don't need to hear it to know that we have a story or more of "betrayal and abandonment" somewhere in our family's unfolding. If we read between the lines or mind the gaps those moments can be acknowledged, not so much as disqualifications or sins deserving punishment but as markers of the down here to which God must "descend" to be with us.
It's humbling. And it's hard. Hard to understand when those family stories include our being betrayed or abandoned or abused. Hard to understand when our memories stunt us and reprise the pain and hurt.
It will not do simply to prevent an emotional response to this grounding/humbling. Human existence is what it is. It is ours to understand and choose what's next so that we are not stuck in humiliation but finally standing with God.
Part of how we move out of the brokenness is to acknowledge that we are not static placeholders but living beings. We grow! We ask for forgiveness and we forgive. We hope, knowing that it will not be pride in our own efforts that saves us but a humble trusting on God as the "ground of our being."