I am convinced God is a verb, that the labeling of God as a noun comes only because we are too quick to label our human selves as nouns. I am certain that God is present in the small beauties of creation. The running waters of a river, the spray of a waterfall, the curl of an ocean wave. God is the sound of the sea heard in a seashell. God is the blowing wind, thunder, lightening, and rain. God is in me when I jump through a puddle, smell a flower, sing a song. God is inside the act of writing, painting, and photographing. God is a deer running through the woods because it can. God is a whale launching itself from the sea and into the sky for the sheer pleasure of it. God is a seed beginning to sprout, a stalk reaching toward the sun, a flower beginning to bud. God is in the warmth of the sun on our faces, a smile we offer a stranger, the hug received from a friend. God is a verb.
I am part of a family that prays. As we are enveloped by the holiday season, prayers around the dinner table are common. I pray differently than my family. They close their eyes, bow their heads, and clasp their hands in front of them. My eyes remain open, I lift my head to see the faces of my family, and my palms face upward in a position of non-grasping. When my mother begins a prayer around the holiday table, I let her words move through me and offer my own deepening of gratitude. As I gaze around the room at the faces of my family, my heart opens up to the beauty of the divine within each of them. I see my nephews, straining with great effort to keep their eyes closed, heads bowed, and hands clasped. I see my brother and sister-in-law who pray with calm and familiarity, but with the keen awareness of their children around them. Ready to spring if their precious cubs turn unruly. My dad prays with quiet stoicism, but maybe that is just because he is hungry and cannot hear. My mom prays with a shaking voice. The matriarch of our small clan, she offers up her words on our behalf, “God be with us, but be especially with those who cannot be here today.” And I know her voice quivers because she is thinking of her own mother, gone ten years now, each passing holiday more painful than the last.
I thought I was alone in my watching of the family. I thought this was my own secret way of becoming closer to God. Observing the human and divine within each of them and opening myself up to gratitude. But, it turns out, this watcher was being watched. One of my nephews has been paying attention. Let’s call him “Flash” because he is the quickest of superheroes. He is the middle son of my brother’s children. Last week, instead of writing this blog, I was blessed to attend a piano recital for his older brother. Before the recital began, the piano teacher asked the visitors to pray. “Flash” insisted on sitting beside me. As a proud and beaming Auntie, this always brings me joy. But, this time, when the prayer began, instead of the usual bowed heads routine, “Flash” in his speedy way, covered my eyes with his own hands and kept them their until the prayer was finished. I held his little wrists with my hands and try as I might to stay silent, laughter tore from my throat. “Flash” laughed too.
God is a verb. God is moments of joyous surrender. God is the laughter created between a young superhero and his aunt. God exists in paying attention to small beauties.