It’s Sunday morning and Zoey asks me, “Do you think God regrets having made humans?” I think how do I answer this question and then I just speak from the heart. No theology lesson here for my 9 year-old, just a deep felt sincere answer. In the split second before I answer, I think about the parallel between God viewed as “Father” or as a parent and the human attribute of God’s disappointment in humans and perhaps Zoey’s growing consciousness as a 9 year-old and her struggles to live up to her own parents’ expectations and perceived disappointment. I tell her no, I don’t think God regrets creating humans and I add on that the God she is learning about at school when she hears the Old Testament stories is how the Hebrew people understood God a long long time ago, but that it’s not necessarily how God is understood today, nor how I understand God. And of course I can’t pass up the opportunity to question what makes her ask. But she doesn’t explain. I continue to think about her question in light of the world events today. It prompts me to pull out my Jerusalem Bible and reread the creation stories in Genesis. It’s when I get to the Flood story that I see the line “Yahweh regretted having made man on the earth, and his heart grieved” (Genesis 6:6). This verse must have been living in her since her teacher told her the story of Noah’s ark last week.
I’ve been reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle, who I heard speak on Brené Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us, a new favorite of mine. There are so many gems in this book. Here is one I love for the times we are living now: ” . . .the deepest truth is not what we can see but what we can imagine.” What we can see can be limiting and in times like now disheartening, but the possibilities within our imagination are endless. In our imagination we can dream of a beautiful world where we tend to the earth and take care of each other regardless of borders, the color of our skin, our language, culture, or religion. In our small mind of the intellect, maybe we can only understand God as having human feelings and reactions. And if that is so, then yes maybe God is disappointed in humanity, how we continue to commit acts of violence in our actions and words and fail to live in right relationship with those around us and the natural world. And I don’t think it’s a big stretch to consider that Zoey might be wondering if her own parents regret having had her. I have had too many clients in the past who have shared their mothers directly voiced that they regretted having them. It still pierces me to the heart thinking of the pain of knowing your mother never wanted you. But I am not one of those women, who for whatever reason, wanted a different path for their life. Nevertheless, I do find myself feeling more frustrated these days as my instructions to Zoey get brushed aside as she does what she wants when she wants. And she sees my frustration and perhaps wonders do I have regrets? I pause and have to consider, am I just building a cage around this beautiful, kind, and loving being who strives to be her own person and am I trying to mold her into my own expectations of how she should be?
The autumn always reminds me that the cycle of death and letting go is a normal part of life. And regret and disappointment serve a purpose. If we let ourselves feel the regret and disappointment, it can open up space for change and doing something different next time. The biblical restart was what came after the flood. Perhaps for us in America our restart will be what happens after the November election.
What Zoey doesn’t yet realize is that we can never live up to the ideal. We may strive for the Garden of Eden before the “fall,” but who wants to live without human consciousness? There is no perfect human being. Part of being human is that you’re going to make mistakes and disappoint someone. And you have to learn as you grow what you need to let go of, what part of you needs to die so that something new may form and blossom. I am still trying to prune my need to please others. My need to please God. My need to please friends. My need to please my husband. I’ve somehow managed to get over my need to please my own parents. I have to let go of my need to control my beautiful butterfly of a daughter. I have to trust that as Stephen and I provide the safe boundaries she needs, she will find her own way of being in this world.