The Grateful Child
What are you like in your relationship with the Deities you honor? How do you engage them? What role do they perform in your life?
In my experience, it is rare that people seriously consider this important dynamic. We take for granted that our Gods and Goddesses will be there for us when we need them and in many cases, that is the only time we actively engage them…when we need them. How many people do you know who treat Deity like an energy ATM? They walk up, insert a candle or a written petition, and withdraw Divine Intervention for whatever the problem du jour happens to be. Others refrain from this sort of spiritual begging and simply honor the Deities they embrace.
The Bible says that “God made man in His own image.” Anthropologists theorize that humankind actually made Gods in their own image, which is why so many of our Deity figures have human flaws such as jealousy, wrath, and vanity. When we envision our Gods, they usually take human form or human and animal form because we respect those images and they are familiar to us. Those mental impressions command authority, wisdom, and endurance, so we translate these familiar impressions onto our ideal sacred guides.
The mental creation of a God or Goddess image often reveals our own relationship to Deity. Our Goddesses may be ethereal and beautiful, lean and athletic, fierce and gruesome, or aged and wisened. Our Gods can be feral and woodsy, fierce warriors, lusty drinkers, or judicious counselors. The spectrum of mental imagery is truly endless and is frequently rooted in the timeless mythologies and ethnic lineages we embrace. The image of Deity we employ can fulfill a driving need in our lives.
Arguably, many people ascribe a parental image to their Gods and Goddesses. As adults, we crave sacred guidance, especially when we feel lost and alone. It is hard to know where to turn when life is crashing down around us and our best efforts toward course correction crumble in our hands. Reassurance can lie in the idea of a primal force that is available to guide us through life when we ourselves do not have the answers. For many of us, that wise guidance feels parental in nature.
If one considers Deity as a parent figure, it is important that we further that thought and flip the dynamic to see it from the other side.
As a parent, which child do you want to please and which one exasperates you?
Is it the one who is delighted when you do something special for them or the one who scowls and rejects your efforts, even demanding more?
Is it the one who refuses to try a new food because they already decided they will not like it or the one who takes a bold, tiny, taste and then enjoys it with great gusto?
Is it the one who moves confidently through the world with joy or the one who pulls,tugs, and clings, starting every sentence with “I need… I need… I need?”
Is it the one who does a clumsy job of simple tasks and gives their best effort or the one who refuses to try and says, “Do it for me!”
Is it the one who says, “Thank you” or the one who says, “Is this all you’ve got for me?”
Would you want to please Veruca Salt or Charlie Bucket?
How many times does God/dess show us a road less traveled or a plan significantly different from what we had in mind, only to have us balk, complain, and shrink away, refusing to even consider the idea, yet continue to complain about how we are stuck in the same mess we were in last year and the year before that?
How many times do people beg and plead for their personal Deity to help them out of a situation and make things right before they make any effort to effectively manage the situation on their own?
How often do we expect the answer to find its way to us rather than creating paths for it to follow to get there?
Why do we make the Gods and Goddesses work so hard to help us? Are we ungrateful, spoiled, lazy children or radiant, thankful, empowered children who do their part?
Parents enjoy pleasing a grateful, loving, joyful child more than the petulant one who whines, complains, and begs constantly. They appreciate the child who says, “Thank you for all you have done for me. Thank you for giving me life. Thank you for what I have. Thank you for this day. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for guiding me. Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for knowing what I need when I am unclear about that.”
Do children really say those things? I am the mother of six ranging in age from fifteen to thirty-seven. I do not believe any of my own children have ever said anything like that to me and I do not believe I ever said that to my parents before they died, although I have afterward. In the case of my parents, it was more along the lines of “Thank you for trying.”
Looking back as a fifty-three year old, however, I can see that would be lovely to experience as a parent and since I have only my human life to relate to in that regard, my choice is to do as others have for time immeasurable. I overlay my know reality onto my relationship with Deity. I strive to give my sacred parents what I will likely never receive as an earthly parent in hopes that it gives them the honor I wish to convey to Them.
Not everyone engages Deity in an authoritative or parent-child relationship. For some, it is a cooperative partnership with well-defined roles and a healthy, mutual dynamic. Some spiritual paths engage their Gods from a position of honoring exclusive of any sort of supplication. For those who do imagine a “Mother Goddess” and or a “Father God,” it is well-rounded and responsible magic to consider what kind of child we are in return.