I have told the story many times about how the rocking chair has become my metaphor for God, but I have never attempted to really unpack that image, to go to the depths of what it might mean for me. I was content to sit back in the comfort of the scene and let the chair rock me.
[Image: “Creative Commons Rockin’ the world!” by Darin House is licensed under CC BY 2.0]
First, let me say that I did not ‘invent’ the rocking chair as an image for God. It arose out of my inner depths during a time of meditation as part of a Progoff ‘Journaling Meditation Workshop.’ The image grasped me before I grasped it. It came, as John Caputo might say, insisting itself upon me in the name of God. Perhaps. Second, it is to be noted that this image is rooted in my being rocked during infancy by my mother. As I have jokingly said, “Mom was an ‘industrial strength’ rocker.” Rocking is part of my DNA. It is deeply rooted in my being. It is not a ‘conscious’ memory (but it clearly has been encoded somewhere within). While the rocking chair has always been a comfort (a sign of God’s healing presence) for me and those with whom rocking chairs have been shared, the truth is
Second, it is to be noted that this image is rooted in my being rocked during infancy by my mother. As I have jokingly said, “Mom was an ‘industrial strength’ rocker.” Rocking is part of my DNA. It is deeply rooted in my being. It is not a ‘conscious’ memory (but it clearly has been encoded somewhere within). While the rocking chair has always been a comfort (a sign of God’s healing presence) for me and those with whom rocking chairs have been shared, the truth is the rocking chair has some other dynamics that I hadn’t previously considered.
The rocking chair does not achieve its full functional potential unless it destabilizes the status quo — that is, a rocking chair that doesn’t rock is just a chair. Movement, fluidity, plasticity are important for growth in faith. Replacing the Messiah with a messianic process is the act of radical insurrection. To accept responsibility for one’s own messianic process is an act of revolution that can (and should) turn the tables of the status quo upside down.
My grandchildren do not understand gentle rocking. A rocking chair that really ‘rocks’ bumps into walls, moves off its center, and threatens to overturn. Being connected to Presence, Mystery, Divine, Spirit (especially in the child-like way suggested by Yeshua) often takes one to a passionate and furious edge rather than to a centered stability. Centering faith on the real Yeshua that lies behind all the accretions and overlays that the church (from its start) has forced upon his image will cause one to bump into traditions, move off center to the fringes, and threaten others deeply. Be prepared for a cross or two or more…
The rocking chair is there in all its potentiality; however, it doesn’t rock unless I sit in it and initiate the motion. The messianic process is there, available to me and to all others. Unless I take some initiative, it remains the hope for a Messiah to do it all for me. Waiting for an external God (Savior) to act all on His/Her own to rescue me, rejects my own responsibility and truncates the redemptive process.
The motion of a rocking chair (back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, …) is analogous to the inner psychic process of integrating darkness and light, good and evil, substance and spirit. The result is not a glorification of either back or forward; instead, it is a “third option” of fluid motion (gentle at times; violent at other times).
Unlike a chair which has four legs firmly grounded, the rocking chair has two ‘runners’ that are always in touch with but constantly moving over the ground. I usually think of being grounded as a stabilized (almost single) act. Here I begin to understand (explore) that grounding is a fluid, shifting, variable process that can’t / shouldn’t / won’t be reduced to a single aphorism. The unsettling nature of rocking is a pale image of the “selling all” which is the price of redemption.
Rocking has always been for me a metaphor for the intersection of the divine and human — being enfolded by the arms of God [switch] being enfolded (as an infant) by the arms of my mother [switch] God [switch] Mother [switch] … The reality of God’s presence is always carried relationally — that is, we become the agents that make God present, real, palpable … we are God with skin on. The rocking chair is not the answer (not the savior); it is the carrier of the process, the catalyst that enables me to de-stabilize my status quo, homeostasis, my comfort with ritualized habits that have lost their creative, redemptive edge. As I continue to struggle to grasp and understand God (Mystery, Presence, Divine, Spirit, Higher Power, Beyond, …), all I can say to myself is “ROCK ON!’