I finished “Mr Golightly’s Holiday”, by Sally Vickers, for the second time while I was making the dinner yesterday evening.
Mr Golightly is God on holiday in a small Dartmoor village, a benign, avuncular figure who drives a Morris Traveller and who is not completely wise to the ways of the world.
Anxious to go through the story a second time, I missed on the first reading the allusions and references that should have revealed Mr Golightly’s identity to all but the most obtuse of readers.
God as Mr Golightly is far removed from the Old Testament; he is embarrassed by much of what went on in his name. The world for Mr Golightly is a world in which he is involved but not one he controls.
It is a view of God that is helpful when one reflects on the events of the past year; the devastation of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean; the slow death brought by the drought in Niger and neighbouring countries; the destruction wrought by successive hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.
To consider such cataclysmic events as attributable to the hand of God is not Biblical, even on the most fundamentalist reading of Scripture. In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah God will spare the cities if there is a righteous person, how then would the God of that story have responded to the prospect of many, many innocent deaths? The American preacher who suggested that the city of New Orleans was devastated as punishment from God seems to overlook inconvenient sections of the Scriptures to which he would ascribe infallibility.
Mr Golightly seems much closer to the God of our experience, a God who has set things in motion and granted his creation freedom to create its own future. He has not abandoned us; rather he stands with us sharing our experiences and our pain.
Most poignantly, he has taken on the depths of our experience in the life of his Son.
Mr Golightly is a God who goes lightly through our world. A God who treads lightly alongside me seems, to me, much more like Jesus than one who is terrifying and remote.