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Beside Restful Waters

by Greg Hermann

“Who am I? Who is God?”

I have been challenged with this question several times throughout my life. It always, and in all ways, provokes pause and reflection.

A question of similar challenge was posed again this past week: Does God cause tragedy?

First, though: Who is God? Is God? Words I have heard in response to the question include:

Great Mystery

Eternal One

Great Spirit


Source of all


In our Western way of thinking, we seem to need a label for everything. Personally, I have been through periods of my life when a label, or some sort of verbal description left me feeling like I understood something. Therefore, I could control this "something." Therefore, I put God in my own personal box with all the flowery vocabulary necessary to understand God. I had great confidence in this God. Even better, I had great faith in this God.

Today I laugh at my concept of having faith in something that I understand. It hardly takes faith in something that I have boxed up and controlled.

So, today, I am practicing Mystery. As I contemplate the greatness of creation, universe, a rain drop, a newborn baby, my own stage in the life cycle …... Well, I have fewer and fewer words, greater and greater awe, and deeper and deeper appreciation of unknowing. Yet, there is a growing sense of peace about the whole process.

One aspect of the process beyond my comprehension is how intimately we are all related.

The Christian scripture briefly pictures first man, Adam, being told to go throughout the world and label every created being. I wish I knew the original language of this story because the English language is all about labels and exercising control of stuff. The Ojibway counterpart of this story is the request of first man to search the world and return with every created thing that has no purpose. Well, original man returned in awe as he was empty handed. He had a deep appreciation of how he is dependent on his existence of all created beings (plants, rocks, bugs, veggies, water, air, fire, earth).

In both stories, humanity was the last to be created and the only one created who is totally dependent on all of creation. The purpose of creation appears to be “LIFE”. It appears that all of life contributes to the sustenance, no, to the flourishing of all aspects of life. There is a mysterious cycle of "life, death, new life (resurrection)." In the absence of humanity, life flourishes.

Back to the original questions: Who am I? Who is God?

Who am I? I've lots of labels. But the mystery to me is that as one speck in the wholeness of the universe, I have a purpose and responsibility to all. I don't have a label. I AM a critical contribution to the flourishing nature of it all.

Who is God? Again, I have no label yet my being, in the midst of the wholeness of universe, leaves me with a tiny appreciation of God's presence.

I ponder my physical existence in relation to my eating habits: the purpose of the carrot, strawberry (chocolate covered of course), the juice, the tea...... every being that died so I can live (resurrect the life of the carrot, strawberry, etc) ….... this is just beyond words.

I ponder my social existence and come to appreciate all of my ancestors and friends who have guided me in to my present being. I AM us, period. Many of you share in my "resurrection," my new life with each sunrise.

As I ponder God, divinity, eternity, etc, well, what can words do to it? Does God cause tragedy? I can only respond from my experience: My personal tragedies seem to be in response to my actions in relation to the Divine "laws" of creation. Yet, there is the reality of generational trauma, born in our tissues and delivering a substantial impact on my life. It appears that this trauma goes back thousands of years. Further, the healing of my tragedies is in the hands of all of us, together, in our vulnerability of life, death and new life (resurrection). Healing is all of us, always and in all ways, AND, I am convinced there is a Divine Mystery permeating this process.

I ponder the Corona Virus and I am moved by the challenge to my perspective on life. I am appreciating how the simple behaviors of each of us contributes to the health and healing of a world wide illness. Further, I am profoundly reminded of this same impact we have with each other prior to and after the pandemic lifestyle has eased. WE ARE!

Well, I pray these thoughts send you to pondering the questions, because I don't have answers.

Meantime, I have no doubt that I AM grateful that WE ARE.


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