Thursday, August 09, 2007

Falling away from faith Pt. 6

After I left my faith behind, I rejoined the human race. I entered a period of profound, no-agenda curiosity which was both exhilarating and liberating.

For instance, when a friend confided that she had never once felt God's presence in her life despite praying for it earnestly as long as she could remember, I felt compassion. I didn't sense a sermon coming on. I didn't tell her new ways to pray, I didn't redefine God's presence, I didn't think she was insincere in her attempts to "feel" God, I didn't change my theology in that moment to recast non-experience of God as the same thing as experience of God. I simply listened and accepted her report as true. I also knew that I could never again believe in God's presence for everyone with absolute confidence. My theology would have to be big enough to include non-experience as well.

I went from being a believer (as in, believing propositions) to believing (as in, taking people at their word). I hasten to add right here that my belief in propositions was every bit as much about relationship to God through Christ as anyone else's. No matter how passionately we cast our faith in relational terms (meaning we didn't generate our experiences but that they are sourced in God), the facts remain: we interpret our experiences (peace, love, joy, forgiveness, freedom, hope, healings, wonder, awe, the conversations we hold in our heads between ourselves and what we call God) as evidence of our relationship to God based on propositions we believe (that there is a God who manifests godself in Christ who now resides in us through the Holy Spirit).

Christians also believe that this God speaks to us and interacts with us in discernible ways. That's what Christians mean by relationship. Christians refer to their experiences to validate those propositions they embrace and believe. That's why we call Christians "believers." In other words, Christians are those people who interpret their experiences through a specific propositional lens that they accept as true, which they describe as relationship. In turn, they present their experiences to others as validation of those propositions.

Muslims, humanists, scientists, Hindus, atheists, postmodernists, Jews, animists... don't. They interpret similar experiences of peace, connection, love, joy, miracles, mission, hope, wonder, mystery and so on, through a different grid with other propositions supporting their interpretations.

So I went from being a believer (in Christian propositions) to believing (that other people's methods of interpreting their own lives held validity for them and could make coherent sense of their experiences adequately). It made a huge difference in how I looked out at the world around me.

Mother Teresa once said that she looked for and saw Christ in the faces of those she cared for. She tended to them as though she were tending to Christ. When I first read her words, I thought I'd misread the quote. For so long, I'd been taught that my goal should be to live in such a way that people saw Christ in me, so that non-Christians would be attracted to Christ as I lived my faith before them. In other words, the goal was to have other people look at my face and see Christ. Certainly Christ wasn't in the "unsaved," as far as I knew. Yet Mother Teresa thought otherwise.

In this season of "un-faith," I tasted Teresa's point of view. I can't say I saw Christ in others as she did. However, I did see the other... without trying to manage the encounter. I listened. I valued. I believed. The "so that" never followed. I began graduate school with this disposition toward others.

My first professor taught Pauline Writings and is a member of the Jesus Seminar. He remains my favorite professor. Dr. Dewey helped me see the "first century other." Prior to that class, my grid for evaluating Scripture and beliefs came through the filter of the 20th century, of literacy and post-Enlightenment science. I unconsciously managed these influences when I'd read about biblical times and peoples. I would look for points of connection between the biblical text and my worldview. I'd shape my readings (not deliberately) to support both the propositions I held to be truly Christian while staying related to reality as our time and place defines it. It is a very tricky process and one that requires a great amount of discipleship to make happen "successfully."

Let me explain further. What I mean is that while most of us honor science as a valid tool for explaining reality, medicine, historical research etc., we also resist science's claim to explain everything. For example, while I believed in the resurrection, I didn't believe in resurrections. While I trusted that miracles in Christian churches were sourced in God, I dismissed miracle claims of other faiths and did so on scientific grounds.

It's a tenuous way to hang onto faith - this need to balance our worldview against an ancient one. And in fact, many ex-fundamentalists leave the faith when this gap becomes too strained.

I went into that first class wary of my professor's interpretations of Scripture (not because I didn't like the Jesus Seminar... on the contrary, I liked their books very much). I worried that the JS scholars were manipulating the Bible to suit their particular theological aims. During one lecture, my jaw dropped when the professor said that the first century Christians believed in Jesus's resurrection.

Rewind that tape, please.
Isn't the JS filled with anti-resurrection tweedy-blazered materialist intellectuals who eschew magical thinking? Naturally, my hand flew into the air to press that point.

Patiently, Dr. Dewey explained the worldview of first century citizens. Without reproducing the lengthy detailed discussion here, suffice to say that what stayed with me at the time was the idea that cosmology (how we understand the relationship of our physical world and the surrounding universe) impacts beliefs. It struck me forcibly that how the first century Christian described what he or she experienced was shaped by that cosmology... and even if we think we can adopt a similar point of view, we are actually believing very differently just because we are no longer living within that era.

In other words, I stopped thinking about how the first century believer's point of view might validate the beliefs I was supposed to have in today's century, and for the first time, listened to the beliefs and viewpoint of a first century person without needing to scientifically analyze them, without systematizing them theologically, without adopting or interpreting them (at least, I attempted to withhold my own immediate reactions to those beliefs). I allowed there to be profound difference between me and a first century believer and "read" texts with that difference in mind (not trying to harmonize or scientifically examine or criticize). As a result, I was put in touch with what constituted the insight that drove the descriptions of their faith experiences, rather than an apologetic that supported their claims. (I will develop this idea in future posts so just sit with it for now, if it doesn't quite make sense.)

I found the process of allowing the other to be different (really different) fascinating and wholly "other." Interest in difference became one of the the chief ways I spent graduate school. I stopped making evaluations (or rather, I stopped letting my evaluations control my readings and interpretations) and instead, adopted a posture of openness to and interest in difference. I allowed myself to be drawn into the utterly other (fascinated rather than threatened, for instance).

Another way to put this attitude is this: Dr. Dewey says that you have not fully entered another time and place sufficiently until you can smell the garlic. It's not enough to read texts, even in the original languages. We must make an attempt to inhabit the world with all five senses, as best we can.

As I moved forward in my theological odyssey, I made it a priority to "smell the garlic" first... to let myself adopt someone else's perspective (even when it drove me mad!), driving to understand how it cohered for that person (people), for that time, for that place, for that moment in history.

This dedicated process of standing in the shoes of the other created the greatest shift in my formerly fundamentalist mindset... a shift that didn't occur until I had screamed in the margins of several text books and stomped around the Xavier quad in tears.


Elleann said...

Hi Julie

Started reading this series yesterday and just wanted to reach out and say hello. :-)

Seriously, you have expressed SO MANY of the thoughts and ideas I have been wrestling with lately (the doubts I've had for a loooooooong time, but the real down-and-dirty wrestling with them only began 'for real' about a month or two ago.)

I feel as if I'm straddling the border between two worlds right now: the one side holds the Christianity I have known and loved since the age of 13, and the other is a morass of disappointment with God, failed spiritual experiences, a thousand and one questions and doubts and fears ... I've been reading and researching and coming up against so much information that I hardly know where or how to begin sorting it all out. And that is only within Christianity itself, LOL - I haven't even gone to look at Judaism, Hinduism and all the many other isms around. Information overload and these days, my brain just isn't the snappy precise instrument I used to be able to rely on. :-)

So it was a wonderful thing to find your blog and this series, and I shall be reading along with great interest. Thanks for sharing your journey (which feels so much like my journey)


DSE said...

I love the series ! I'd like to know more about your journey in relation to your Vineyard experience. I assume you had many conversations with your friends in that particular community. I had thought that community had experience of, or that you would have been involved in, healings, prophesy, word of knowledge etc. Experiences that were outside the rational / logical. Did that effect your thought process?
You so need to write a book about your journey. I'm not sure there's anything out there quite like this. I've been recommending your current series to lots of folks. Love the series :-)

r. michael said...


Clearly you have moved into post-modernity in a big way...and I don't mean that condescendingly but rather as an observation. As I have researching Emerging theology I realize that you have hit on a lot of the issues that post-moderns have with the modern evangelical structure and epistemology.

My question is do you think there is middle ground or is it an all or nothing proposition? I think my next read on the subject will be Rollins book "How (Not) to Speak to God". Anyone read that one yet? I have read excerpts from it but not the entire book.

Before I am ready to give up on faith entirely I think I need to explore some of the attempts to look at God from a different approach. My current (modern) view doesn't work. I may in the end give up after exhausting all avenues but I need to try. Your dogged pursuit has truly inspired me.

I admit that some of Rollins points sound like emergent sleight-of-hand and may be a way to assuage deep-seated doubt or hold onto a crumbling faith. I don't really know how they would flesh out in actual practice but I think they are worth exploring. Would be interested if you have been down this path and if you found any degrees of agreement.

And yes the book is not just a great is a requirement! I would be the first in line to buy it...and I might even camp out the night before its release!

julieunplugged said...

DSE, I'll keep that in mind for future posts. I do have thoughts about the experience side of charismatic experience (heck, I used to teach how to employ the gifts, how to get words of knowledge and how to interpret dreams! I came across some of my notes the other day as I was purging files and found myself fascinated by them).

R. Michael, I have been deeply influenced by postmodernism. I contend we all have, even those clinging to modernism. It's like trying to resist breathing air that has CO2 in it. Not possible.

What I discovered in my theological studies is that the postmodern theologies mot closely spoke to my questions.

On the other hand, I also learned/experienced some of the limits to postmodern thinking and theology.

I'll pursue this further. I'm not so much thinking in terms of finding a middle ground, but an entirely different way of thinking about a person's relationship to faith and faith communities.

Your question about all or nothing is interesting to me. That's how modernists often characterize a faith commitment. Postmodernists commit differently - to finding the silenced voices, to examining contexts for the power games, to uncovering the way language controls discourse etc.

So where does someone go in faith when these ways of knowing come into conflict? That should make up a portion of my #7. :)

Elleann said...

r.michael said: Before I am ready to give up on faith entirely I think I need to explore some of the attempts to look at God from a different approach.

Michael, me too! Today I had an aha! moment that gave me hope. I visited A Beautiful Heresy blog which said, amongst other things:
I embrace the fact that G-d is revealed in many ways, in many religions and philosophies and many cultures.

And suddenly I thought that maybe there actually was a faith life of some sort beyond the giving up of my fundamentalist roots. That maybe God is in fact bigger than Basic Christianity, lol! I've often said that provokingly in the past, usually when discussing whether there is life on other planets and how those life forms might experience 'God'. But that was spoken from within the safe walls of Evangelical Christianity.

I still get all shaky and trembly when I realize that I can no longer honestly call myself a Christian and have it mean what I've always thought it meant. But this is a journey from which there is no turning back, isn't it? It is such a joy to meet other 'seekers after truth' along the way. :-)

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

"Christians are those people who interpret their experiences through a specific propositional lens that they accept as true, which they describe as relationship."

Really? So, that is what a Christian is! (sarcasm intended). I find this statement a contradiction of your attempt to "call out" the fallacy of generalizing from a particular. Perhaps you're projecting your experience just a bit?

julieunplugged said...

Scott, interact with the ideas. Skip the sarcasm.

My point wasn't to describe how a Christian sees him or herself. Nor was it to describe a Christian ontologically. Christians believe that God does in fact interact with human beings, they bear witness (to use a Christian expression) to that interaction through the description of their experiences which they interpret according to the propositions they accept as true.

Even in claiming revelation as the source of their experiences is still the result of accepting the idea that revelation is possible and in fact has transpired.

My purpose in that paragraph was to describe how the idea of propositional truth informs/relates to the idea of relationship. That's the limited context.

As to the rest of your comment, I don't understand it. Want to explain it further?

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

One last hack

Good advice about skipping the sarcasm, but it was not meant as mean-spirited, just a failed attempt at being funny. I have to remember the H.A.L.T thing more often.

Put more constructively, anybody who starts with propositions and not faith is off, not only on the wrong foot, but going down the wrong path. Despite this, without a doubt some people approach Christianity that way for whatever reasons.

I think if we take the approach faith seeking understanding we get it right. Faith, which is admittedly a bit nebulous and deeply personal, is the correct starting point. Any subsequent attempt to understand our faith experience has to remain true to that fundamental encounter with God, or ultimate reality, or whatever form our encounter takes. This is where another danger arises.

Even if one begins with faith, when one responds and tries to make sense of it one runs the risk of trying frame her/his experience in terms and propositions (leaving aside the metaphysical problem of the relationship of propositions to truth) that don't accurately reflect that experience. Sooner or later this false faith will collapse. While devastating, such a collapse is the best thing that can happen. In fact, as people of faith, we all need a shift from time-to-time, a correction. This comes through examination and ultimately out of love and desire for what is true, what is really real.

Faith seeking understanding makes humble due to uncertainty and incompletness. The very last thing that faith is is smug certainty, true faith takes account of human limitation, frality, proneness to pretense, etc.

julieunplugged said...

Thank you for expanding this more Scott. I get a much better sense of where you are coming from. I hope others will interact with your ideas too. I like what you said here:

Faith seeking understanding makes us humble due to uncertainty and incompleteness. The very last thing that faith is is smug certainty, true faith takes account of human limitation, frailty, proneness to pretense, etc.

R. Michael said...

Hi Julie,

I guess the question about the "all or nothing proposition" came from the title of the piece "falling away from faith" I would assume then you when you talk about "falling" you would be referring to a modern notion of faith rather than a postmodern one.

I think someone who is thoroughly postmodern would not necessarily considered you as falling away, since you are still on the Journey (no pun intended...well yes it was).

I am still trying to digest Scott's point and am not sure I understand it all but I don't think we can start with faith in isolation. Faith has to be built on something. I am not sure how you start with it. If it is rooted in experience it also stands on shaky ground. It is said that "experience makes a believer out of an atheist...and an atheist out of a believer". I think there is some truth to that.

julieunplugged said...

R. Michael, one of the early pieces I wrote for UPI was called "The Freefall of Faith." I see faith as requiring a kind of fall (even more than a leap). It's an abandoning more than an adopting, at least for me.

The title of this little series is not thoughtfully chosen. It had more to do with giving a description of what this series would be about based on what others call what's happened to me. So I understand now what you are saying.

I'll write more about faith in a future post. I think there is a difference between holding beliefs and living by faith (trust, pistis - in the Greek).


mariam said...

I agree that one can fall "into" faith as well as away from it. Often we are doing both at the same time. I have also had that sense of existential free fall where you are forced to let go of your most comfortable and trusted beliefs without any certainty there is a net to catch you. The postmodern nightmare is that there is nothing but freefall - that any net is an illusion. The pleasanter way of thinking about that is as r.michael says "we are still on the Journey".

For me the fall has been away from secular humanism towards Christ. Nevertheless that viewpoint I had for 30 years still colours much of my understanding of the way things and people work. Those propositions didn't just leap out of my head - it would probably fry my synapses if they did. Julie, do you find there are still things about the beliefs you are leaving behind that are still stuck in your brain, that still colour your thinking, that you wish you could get rid of? For me, the assumption that there is no God is very difficult to shake, as is the belief that people who "experience" God are sadly deluded. Even with my commitment to assume God exists, I still find myself sometimes making somewhat patronizing judgements about people of faith.

scott dodge:

Some questions (respectfully): I am not sure what you mean about starting from faith and not propositions. If I have not previously believed in God and decide to assume God exists is that faith or proposition? Do you mean a person should have no propositions when they start their journey of faith? How is this possible? How can we live in the world as a sane person without any propositions or assumptions? I think it is very good to be aware of what your assumptions, suppositions, propositions are and to accept that you might be wrong, but I'm not sure it is possible not to have any and to try and make sense of anything, including faith. You also say Any subsequent attempt to understand our faith experience has to remain true to that fundamental encounter with God, or ultimate reality. I also don't know what this means. What fundamental encounter with God are you talking about? Essentially my faith is about assuming there is a God and talking to him and trying to live in Christ even though God is silent and I have no evidence he/she exists. I don't have the strong sense of a relationship with God that Julie describes above. What about other faiths? I have Muslim and Jewish friends who devoutly belive that they experience God through their faith. If I lived in a different part of the world I would no doubt be a Muslim or Bhuddist. Should I then be always true to this fundamental encounter with God? What exactly do you mean by being remaining true to your initial encounter?

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

Living as if God exists and having faith, which is an event born of an encounter, are altogether different. It is the difference between faith and pragmatism. Now, don't misunderstand, I would certainly agree that it is better to live as if God exists than to live as if God doesn't exist. However, living as if God exists is certainly propositional (i.e., you choose to accept the proposition God exists), whereas faith is of a different order.

As to propositions and faith, that is always an interesting question because it goes to cognition and language. So, given the philosophical difficulty of that interrelation, it is best to just write that we do not begin from nowhere or nothing. The encounter hits us where we're at.

Nonetheless, we go on to make sense of our encounter, to deepen it. Too often people just want to endlessly repeat their initial encounter instead of growing because growth is unavoidably fraught with paradox and tension. In seeking to make sense of our encounter with God, the infinite, the ultimate, etc., we soon discover others who have had similar encounters. Like snowflakes, encounters may bear a remarkable degree of resemblance, but no two are the same. This seeking is the unfolding of the event to which our encounter gives birth. Put simply, it is relationship and not just Me n’ God, but with others, too.

In adult faith sharing it is interesting when people share their experiences how much resonance there almost always seem to be among those sharing. Sometimes this resonance is true and genuine and sometimes people, for whatever reasons, just go along with the crowd.

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

As to other faiths, I think what I have written is not so exclusively Christian as to preclude or exclude what others experience in other faiths. As a Catholic Christian I have no problem acknowledging that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God. Neither do I have any problem placing a value on Hinduism in all its many splendored manifestations, or Buddhism. Genuine personal encounters with the ultimate are not the exclusive domain of Christians.

However, I do acknowledge the real differences. One such difference is that between Christians and Buddhists. Buddhists see desire as the source of suffering. Therefore, one seeks to eliminate desire through detachment. The Christian also accepts that to live is to suffer and suffering is caused to a large extent by desire. Rather than eliminate desire altogether, the Christian seeks to desire that which will satisfy one's it and to properly order her/his desires based on what is worth desiring. This means detachment from that which is not worth desiring. In this there is more spiritual convergence than divergence. On Christian terms the that that satisfies desire turns out to be a who.

As Thomas Merton wrote: "If I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it."

julieunplugged said...

Scott, I'm interested in how you see the word "encounter" and what it means to you.

julieunplugged said...

Mariam, I'll talk a bit about some of your questions in part 7 (which I hope to write and post later today). Good thoughts and well articulated.

Sentient Marrow said...

I wanted to let you know, Julie, that i am reading along as I get moments here and there on the computer. It's almost like waiting for the next show in a soap opera (not that your life is like a soap opera but the having to wait for the next day's installment) I like, though, that I can read and chew on bits because I think I'd be overwhelmed by everything all at once. Thanks for sharing this part of yourself.

R. Michael said...


I appreciate your perspective on these issues. Have to agree with Julie about her question though "What do you mean by encounter?" since in your discourse you seem to indicate that this is the starting point of faith. The reason I am so interested in this aspect is because for evangelicals (not sure how this works in Catholicism) so much of what motivates us is the desire to "grow" from the initial encounter with God and we switch right over to propositional truth to validate our encounter. It is like we are trying to prove to ourselves that whatever ever we experienced was real. This is a little dubious at best for me.

mariam said...


I am looking forward to Chapter 7. Forgive me for my long reply to Scott which follows. I thought of moving it over to his blog, but he addressed me here and some of it is related to the question several are asking about “encounter”. I don’t want to contravene blog etiquette so just let me know if I am.


Well, we certainly share some common ground. In your initial post to Julie I wasn’t sure where you were coming from. I am still unsure how one makes that initial step into faith, however. How does one leap that chasm from non-belief to belief if one does not have one the defining encounters with God or does not know whether it has happened? (oh sorry, was that you God? I thought it was just the Jehovah Witnesses knocking again) Do we not try to define but just assume it has happened? Again, an assumption. If we don’t try to define it how do we know it has happened? Do we just stay quiet and let it happen? Is this the faith you are talking about?

When I first began attending church I told the rector what I was searching for and told her I had a hard time believing in God, not to mention many other basic orthodox Christian assumptions. She said “Who exactly is this God you don’t believe in?” I was taken aback by this, but it made me realize I had been making certain assumptions about what and who God was that made it easier for me to refuse to believe. She also said, “God does not care what you believe. He doesn’t want your beliefs. He wants you. He wants you to be present to him (her).” She suggested that I continue to come to church and take from that experience what was meaningful for me and put aside that which wasn’t. That I continue to read, pray and meditate and think about how God might be speaking to me. This I have done. There are times when I thought that it is possible God might be speaking to me, but I can only believe that if I assume God exists and that he does speak to us. Another explanation is that I am talking to myself and that I am fooling myself into believing anything out of the ordinary is happening because I so desperately require a new belief structure to keep me sane.

Right now I am here. I need God but I am not sure he exists. However, because I need God (to love him and be loved by him, to be forgiven and to be given strength to live in rightness with the rest of creation) I assume God exists and I assume God cares about me. This is selfish but in one sense but honest. I suppose I still am not totally allowing the God idea to exist in my mind without conditions. I want to believe in an all-loving, affirming (not just forgiving) God who does not cause suffering but is able to help us transform it. I don’t want to believe in a jealous, wrathful, capricious, punitive God who can’t bear to look at us in our depraved state of being without us being cleansed by a belief in Christ’s atonement, who causes or allows suffering so that we will fear him. I want to believe in a God who loves us as we are in our true selves, both loveable and unloveable, selfish but desiring to be unselfish, capable of acts of both evil and heroism. I want to believe in a God that sees the potential and not the mistakes. In a sense then I am starting with conditions. I am saying that unless God is a certain way I am not open to believing in him. I am afraid to believe in a God who might be disgusted by me. I am thinking this out as I write, so forgive me if it sounds appallingly blasphemous or self-centred.

julieunplugged said...

Mariam, your remarks remind me a lot of the Showings by Julian of Norwich (a 14th century mystic who wrote her experiences of God into a book, one of the first in vernacular English). Her theology reminds me very much of your longings for who you hope God is.

Elleann said...

Re the 'encounter' Scott talks about:

Scott, for me, becoming a Christian years ago did not happen following an encounter with God. It was a quiet decision at the age of 13 following a presentation of the gospel at a low key Methodist youth group meeting. I chose to put my faith in what the Bible said and in the God who was said to be the author of the Bible, and I 'gave my heart to Jesus'.

Since that time, the one thing I have repeatedly sought, almost to the point of desperation at times, was an encounter with God. Being an introvert in a pentecostal environment, I battled to feel what everyone around me seemed to be feeling with such ease, and I often wondered what I was doing wrong that I seemed unable to experience God's presence.

The fact that I'm now in my late 40s and have still never had an encounter with God is only one of the many reasons I'm now stumbling through a process (long, slow and incredibly painful!) of deconversion. Up to now, my absolute NEED for God to be real and personal has kept me from even contemplating such a path.

MaryD said...

I love this quote, Julie. "As I moved forward in my theological odyssey, I made it a priority to "smell the garlic" first... to let myself adopt someone else's perspective (even when it drove me mad!), driving to understand how it cohered for that person (people), for that time, for that place, for that moment in history.

R. Michael said...

I think the need to have an "encounter" or "experience" with God (whatever you want to call it) can be a idol. Perhaps in our pursuit of God we are trying to make it "real" this way... but the reality, as most Chritians would understand it, is Jesus himself. I realize this sounds overly simplistic given the thread of conversation here but to look for the encounter instead of the person is like valuing someone for their money instead of valuing them. If the encounter some how comes then great but it is not the object of our pursuit.

julieunplugged said...

R. Michael, the problem I have with what you are saying here is that we are dealing in the realm of invisibility. All of the ideas about relationship to God are hampered by that one glaring fact: evidence of God is not forthcoming without deliberate interpreting of events, experiences, and readings of the Bible to support the idea of God being self-revelatory.

So yes, experiences may be over-rated. But if propositions are also considered insufficient basis for faith, on what grounds does one come to accept the Christian trajectory of theological reflection as the valid one, or the one to live by?

These are the questions that take us in circles, but I hope to shed more light on some other options as we go. I'm about to post #7.

R. Michael said...

hmm...good point. Maybe these are the limits of our understanding.

If there is truth...that is not accepted by propostion nor experienced relationally then how can we really know it (or be expected to know it)? Can it even be called truth then as we understand it?

could it be that whatever "it" is exists, though outside our ability to comprehend it?...this is what I wish could be the same time realizing it cannot be answered nor could I understand the answer if I had it.


mariam said...

Wow, Julie. So much here and in your subsequent posts that speaks to me where I am now. My Common Prayer book "Celebration of Prayer" has a "Song of Julian of Norwich" . I never knew who she was or even knew she was a she. I have been reading about her on the web and I can't believe how much her beliefs are in sync with mine.

I don't think of God as female. I try to think of God as genderless and that is what I believe (but it is hard to shake off all that gender-specific language) but I always think of the relationship with us as like that of mother and child - unconditional love, someone who when she sees us suffer as a result of our mistakes and the mistakes of others does not necessarily "rescue", but loves us, holds us tenderly in our suffering, perhaps weeps with us and when we are quiet talks about what went wrong and why and how we can turn that suffering into something good. In Julian I think I may have found a patron saint:) Interesting that you share a version of her name.