Kathleen Norris's formative moments

February 8, 2011

My formal theological training began and ended with a course on the
scriptures in eighth grade, leaving me with all the faults of the
autodidact and a paper on what, with an adolescent's callow complacency,
I termed the "affair" of David and Bathsheba. The foundations of my
faith, nurtured by early exposure to the Bible and hymns, lie in song
and story.

As a child I was particularly drawn by the tales of the
Israelites in the desert, the images of the pillars of cloud and of
fire. I was appalled at the people's persistent rejection of God, little
knowing that as an adult I would come to know this condition well.
Jesus seemed OK, but I much preferred the narrative punch of the Old
Testament.

When I was in my thirties, just beginning to rediscover
my faith, a well-meaning Benedictine monk mailed me a copy of Hans
Küng's Does God Exist? That was not the question for me. After
reading a few paragraphs, I sent the book back. Fortunately, he had also
scribbled a note: "If this doesn't work, try Flannery O'Connor's The Habit of Being."
And that was exactly what I needed: the letters of a passionate
Christian who admits that "most of us come to the church by a means the
church does not allow."

It seems that I am always returning to the
origins of my faith, the inexhaustible stories of scripture and the
poetic imagery of the Psalms. I need a God who created whales to play
with and makes hills leap for joy, a God who calls each star by its
name. I need those resonances, images and metaphors that, like God, are
beyond my understanding. They speak to me in a way that nothing else
can.

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