God, noun or verb?


In my head, the teacher still taps her ruler on the backboard, saying, “A noun is a naming word. A verb is a doing word.”

Now I want to ask, is the word God noun or verb?

Surely it has to be a verb.

I suspect that God as noun is an idol of my own making.

All the words we attach to God, describe movement –  the way our creator interacts with us.

The Islamic 99 names of God are not names.

They are actually “doing” words, illustrating the ways people receive the divine presence.

In the Jewish tradition, the four letters Yod Vay Hav Vay are a kind of no-name for God, a reminder that we cannot ‘own’ God by placing a name on our creator.

When we read about Moses and the burning bush, we are told God says, “I am that I am.”

Jewish scholars say this translation from the Hebrew is incomplete.

A better understanding is: “I am the I am that is always evolving.”

In other words, the Isness of God is about movement.

Judaism has several proper nouns for the Holy Spirit,  but these too, are verbs in disguise. They are always about the giving of divine guidance in our lives.

That makes me wonder how I see our Holy Trinity?

Are they human figures fixed as in an icon? Or do they represent three flowing movements of the Holy Oneness?

God the Creator, always evolving, is one with Christ Jesus God made flesh, who is one with the guidance of God made Spirit.

However I regard the Trinity, my understanding will be small because I am small.

I know God is beyond naming; but I’m human and I need words and images that will take me to awareness of that unnameable loving presence.

The two statues by my prayer candle, are Mary who represents a “yes” to being pregnant with God, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, his arms wide open to draw all to his heart.

In prayer, both of these statues become verbs carrying me to a spacious place that my smallness cannot describe.

The writers of scripture knew this process well.

They used a variety of images to describe the movements of God in their lives: king, rock, eagle, running water, an over-flowing cup.

Jesus likened himself to a shepherd, vine, bread, salt, door, light, serpent, mother hen – all of these in action.

Understanding the way words and images can be ‘doing words’ taking us to a deep awareness of God, allows us to make use of our own metaphors.

God as verb moves in all our comings and goings, incarnational in family and friends, in our celebrations and in our heartbreak.

There is nothing in our life where God is absent.

The Holy One is our lover, our keeper.

All the movements of our lives, be they blessing or teaching, are contained in God.

Division comes from our own thinking.

God is all there is.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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