March 5, 2010 — -- "God is silent. Now if only man would shut up." -- Woody Allen
I am a spiritual seeker and a Leo. As such, I prefer chatty, outgoing deities. I want a God that wants to talk about the same things I do, i.e. me; a God that tells me when I wake up each morning that I look gorgeous; a God that says, "I love you" every five seconds and "You are so fabulous" every ten.
I didn't ask to be born in August. I didn't even ask to be a Leo. But since someone or something chose to put me on this earth during that particular planetary grade, one would think that he, she or it would take the time to ensure that my royal Leo requirements were met. Unfortunately, the deity responsible was, I believe, a Scorpio: a private, quiet sign that hates lengthy conversations.
You don't have to be a fiery lioness to feel the weight of holy silence. We've all had that moment when we look around expectantly for some divine response -- any response -- and there appears to be none. Why does God sometimes appear silent? And why do those times seem to be the ones we most need holy assistance?
One thing I have learned over the years about Scorpios is that while sometimes quiet, they are loyal beyond imagination. Often found in the background, they are nonetheless always there -- a bit like Forrest Gump. In the movie, Forrest magically materializes out of the background in some of the major historical moments of the time.
Oh, here is Forrest with President John F. Kennedy! Oh, here he is with Elvis Presley! Oh, look Forrest is standing beside John Lennon! You had to look closely to see him, but he was always there.
The ancient Celts apparently agreed with my assessment that God is a Scorpio. In Celtic spirituality, in order to find God, you had to look pretty hard. But if you looked in the right places, God was always there. One of those places was what the Celts deemed "thin places"; places where the boundary between human and holy were so thin, so transparent, you could almost break through. These were the spaces where secular and holy, earth and heaven, ordinary and sacred came together. As the theologian Marcus Borg explained: "Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts, and we behold God."
Thin places can take many forms. Some might be geographical, like the desert, where all things are stripped away and life is down to its bare essentials. Others might be found in music, poetry, literature or art. Another thin place we don't often think of is laughter. Laughter is the ultimate act of letting go. It clears our hearts of insecurity, neediness and stale expectations. It opens it anew to the words or songs or silence we were meant to receive.
With laughter, our hearts are laid bare before God. And in this place where all is released, all becomes possible.
One other thing I have learned is that Leos never believe anything is their fault. That is why it has taken me years to realize that God is silent through no fault of God, but because of my own baggage -- my own inability to hear. The Trappist monk Thomas Merton explained: "Life is this simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true. [And] if we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes."
In the end I still see myself as a Leo with a Scorpio creator. But through laughter, I've found a thin place where even Leos and Scorpios are compatible; a point where we let go and stop trying to make God into something; a place of repose where, resting in the mystery, we simply await God to reveal God's self in God's own time. No expectations. No disappointments. Just faith that what comes is holy and right and meant to be … Scorpio, Leo or whatever.
This excerpt by the Rev. Susan Sparks is from her upcoming book, "Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor." Permission granted by SkyLight Paths Publishing. To order call 800-962-4544 or online at www.skylightpaths.com. America's only female comedian in the country with a pulpit, Sparks is senior pastor of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. She is currently performing in the Laugh in Peace Tour with standup Rabbi Bob Alper and Muslim comedian Azhar Usman. Visit Susan's Web site and Madison Avenue Baptist Church.