We are about to move house for the second time in a year, moving into the shiny new Rectory our parish has had built. The upheaval is not pleasant, but throws up unexpected moments. Clearing shelves I found a past copy of the Dominican journal Spirituality and read a piece by Maria Tighe, a parish sister working in Barra in the Outer Hebrides.
“The class of five year olds sat spellbound as I recounted the story of how Jesus fell asleep during the storm at sea. As I reached the climax of the story where Jesus stretched out his hands over the raging sea, I stretched out my hands and made a dramatic pause. Before I could say the words ‘Peace be still,’ I was interrupted by Tony who could hardly contain himself, ‘Abracababra’ he exploded. Since that day when Tony broke the spell I have often caught myself out expecting an abracababra-god to come to my aid, or to make haste to help my friends.
When I was a child in Primary School I was taught that God knows everything; he is everywhere and he can do anything. In those days one did not question what the teacher said, but I fervently hoped that God did not really know what I was thinking. I also remember thinking that God was not everywhere, because he would not want to be in the bin with the bottle tops and used straws that reeked of sour milk. I tried to work out something that God could not do. When I talked the matter over with my ten-year-old brother, he told me that God could not squeeze toothpaste back into a tube once it had been squeezed out! I felt vaguely satisfied by his answer. It was almost as if I had caught this abaracadabara-god out at his own game.
I rather resented God when I was a child. According to my teacher, God loved me even more than my Mam and Dad did. I did not want anyone to love me more than my parents loved me. God seemed to be an interfering outsider who was more or less everywhere! He knew all the things I got up to; especially he knew my misdemeanours. He was very powerful, and like Tony, I believed that he could perform the odd magical trick or two if one used the right manipulative formula or behaviour. Recently, one of my friends faced with a grave decision said, ‘Oh if only God would give me a computer printout for what I should do in this situation!’ Yes, we grown up children still hanker after an abracadabra-god who will act without much involvement or effort on our part”.
I felt distinctly uneasy. Often in my prayers I am looking for an abracadabra-god.