Chapter 4: Unless You Create Your Face
Each age has to create its own God, others’ gods won’t do. They were created by them for their own purposes, for their own ends. They have become irrelevant. They become irrelevant all the time. And whenever one God becomes irrelevant and dies, decomposes and disappears, in the wake comes great emptiness, great meaninglessness; because that God was giving a certain meaning to people, that God was their meaning. Now he is no more there. Suddenly you are left alone - alone on a dark night, alone on a cold night.
God was a kind of warmth; heaven was not far away, it was very close. You could have almost touched his feet any time. God was all the time looking after you. He was always observing you. You were a small child and he was your father or mother. Now that God exists no more. Now it has become very difficult to look at the sky and pray like Jesus did.
Jesus used to call God “my Father.” His exact word is abba, which is far more loving, affectionate, closer - like “daddy.” “Father” is a little cold. He used to call God abba. You cannot call, have you tried? Sometimes look at the sky, and just say “Daddy” - how foolish it looks.
I have heard.
Sherwood Anderson describes his own awakening to this spiritual emptiness. He tells of walking alone late at night along a moonlit road when “I had suddenly an odd, and to my own seeming, a ridiculous desire to abase myself before something not human. And so, stepping into the moonlit road, I knelt in the dust. Having no God - the gods having been taken away from us.by the life about us, as a personal God has been taken from all modern men.by a force within that man himself does not understand, but calls the intellect, I kept smiling at the figure I cut in my own eyes as I knelt on the road..”
Visualize a moonlit road, a silent night, a cool breeze, and suddenly Anderson is possessed by a desire to pray. But he says “a desire to abase myself..”
When there is no God, how can you pray? When there is no God, it seems to be perfectly logical to say an urge “to abase myself..” to surrender to the nothing, to surrender to the empty sky, just “humiliate myself.” Remember that word abase. Nobody who has prayed has said that it is abasing yourself. They have said it is praising God, raising God high. Now that there is no God and you cannot pray to God, then what are you doing kneeling in a dusty road? Maybe it is beautiful, maybe there is moonlight, maybe it is silent. So what? But you are abasing yourself in the dust.
“I kept smiling” he says “at the figure I cut in my own eyes as I knelt on the road..” There was nobody else, but in his own eyes he is seeing the ridiculousness of it, the absurdity of it. “There was no God in the sky, no God in myself, no conviction in myself that I had the power to believe in a God. And so I merely knelt in the dust in silence and no words came to my lips.”
This is the situation. You cannot call abba - those words won’t come to your lips. And even if you do bring them, they will be false and you will be laughing at the whole ridiculousness of it.