"God was the parent who had left. . . ."

From Barbara Brown Taylor's Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith:

On my worst nights I lay in bed feeling like a single parent, unable to sleep because I knew I did not have enough love in me to go around. God was the boundless lover, but for many people God was the parent who had left. They still read about him in the Bible and sang about him in hymns. They still believed in his reality, which made it even harder to accept his apparent lack of interest in them. They waited for messages from him that did not arrive. They prepared their hearts for meetings that never happened. They listened to other Christians speak as if God showed up every night for supper, leaving them to wonder what they had done wrong to make God go off and start another family.

I suppose I could have helped them see how their life histories deepened their distress or given them some more grown-up ways of conceiving of God, but few were interested in that. We were engaged in a more ancient drama, wrestling far more primitive fears. Because I was wedded to the One who was gone, I stood in for him. I took many of the blows intended for him and received much of the adulation. I kept the old stories about him alive and told some new ones as proof of his ongoing vitality. I blessed, fed, and forgave the children in his name, reassuring them that their fears were ungrounded and their hopes well placed. The unspoken deal, I think, was that as long as I did this, no one would openly question God's love or existence. As long as I filled in, no one would ask where God was or why he was not more attentive.

In my case, the attention deficit was all mine. I had moved to the country in order to lie down in more blessed fields, to live closer to the Divine Presence that had held me all my life, but I had once again become so busy caring for the household of God that I neglected the One who had called me there. If I still had plenty of energy for the work, that was because feeding others was still my food. As long as I fed them, I did not feel my hunger pains.