I just had a wonderful meeting with my “spiritual companion.” After much relaxed conversation, empathetic interchange and lots of laughter, he said, “Geez! We get together and talk about food and so many other things, and never seem to get to the spiritual stuff.” To which I replied, “I think God is IN all these things!”
I really do believe that…God IS present in all circumstances, but not necessarily in the way we would like that to be! As human beings we tend to think in terms of either/or, this vs. that. We can’t conceive of a God who is all-powerful AND all-loving. We have a tough time reconciling the matters of justice and mercy. The questions I often ask myself are, “Is my mind too small to comprehend God?” or “Do I try to make God small enough to fit my understanding?” To both questions I vehemently respond, “YES!”
In the historical record there are thousands of labels and stories humankind has used to try to explain the encounter with the unexplainable. Billions of people have come to understand that there are experiences beyond words and beyond current science. Because humankind has been given the gift of reason, those experiences prompt theories, explanations, dogmas, and doctrines that are then used, by those same humans, for good or evil, as a springboard for heroic service and sacrifice or self-aggrandizement (erroneously labeled as righteousness).
I doubt any of my atheist friends invest any time in reading this blog, but if they happen to be checking in, I know they would admit that there are observations beyond scientific explanation. Those friends and acquaintances would be quick to add the word “yet” because their “god,” (though they would never admit it) is science. They rely on the belief that someday, our human experiences will all find empirical explanation through scientific discovery (if we don’t destroy ourselves first). Interestingly, I too believe that all knowledge will someday be revealed. However, I believe that revelation will take place on the day I die, when I am face-to-face with my Creator.
The debate that often stirs around these beliefs, was beautifully and lovingly discussed by Rabbi Harold S.Kushner in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The answers he poses are touching and faith-filled. If you’ve never read that book, it really is user-friendly and worth your time. Because I am a Christian, and a Catholic, I have some additional theories and answers to those quandaries. Those remedies are centered on the person of Jesus Christ, His example in life, death, and resurrection (whatever that may mean) and His living-presence in my life today.
Let me admit, I lean toward “theology of incarnation” and have my own uncertainties regarding “redemptive theology,” but many very deep thinkers throughout history have debated those questions, so I am happy to leave the nuances of those arguments to them. All I can say is the curtain will not close on that discussion until one shuffles off this mortal coil. I can only speak from my experience, and much of that has left me without adequate words.
The God I believe I have come to know throughout my life has given me free will to be inside or outside of a relationship. As with anyone or anything I have come to love, sometimes their actions have left me frustrated, angry or confused. Sometimes I think I have the solutions to every dilemma and can’t figure out why “the other” seems unaware or uncaring. Still, the deeper I become connected through my earthly relationships, the more I understand and am open to being overwhelmed by a deeper understanding, delight, wonder, and overflowing love. There have been times, when all was said and done, I even came to realize I was completely wrong. The perseverance in and resolution of the struggle made the endeavor all the more sweet. I believe the same is true for my relationship to God.
My experience of parenthood has also given me a tremendous, though still very limited, understanding of myself as God’s daughter. My grown children don’t always choose paths I would have chosen. Ironically, sometimes they even make decisions counter to what I believe I taught them. Still, they are adults and I loved them enough to relinquish control of their lives. I’m sure they love me dearly, but there are also times I’m sure they don’t truly understand me or my motivation. There are times my heart breaks because I want to protect them from some tragedy, but life happens! One thing they can always count on is that when times are tough, I will be beside them as soon as I can to offer any comfort and all assistance humanly possible, and we are simple finite beings, I can only scratch the surface in understanding the love of God.
No matter what I face in this world of free will, foolish choices, and downright evil intentions, I know, from experience, I have been put on this world for relationship. As Neil Diamond said, in Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, when someone is troubled I have to reach out my one hand because “that’s what it’s there for” and when my “heart is troubled,” I reach up my other hand in prayer and, when I am still and listen, there is an all-encompassing comfort and, as an old spiritual said, “blessed assurance.”
Call me a fool, if you have the need or desire, I will not be false to my experience. This earthly life may pose many questions and predicaments, pain may be extreme and, all too often, I do not live up to my potential. There are times I question my own beliefs and the doctrines of my faith- heritage, but somehow, just then, beyond my human comprehension, I am granted a glimpse of radiance and feel an all-encompassing love drawing me and accepting me, with all my faults and foibles, while simultaneously urging my honest response.
When I am conscious of this relationship-beyond-mere-existence, every moment becomes spiritual. The sharing of a recipe, the frustrations expressed because of human interactions, expectations, and shortcomings, the sunshine or rain, sorrows and joys, a relaxed laugh or understanding word, pleasure and pain, all take place in the loving concern and embrace of that which permeates and animates all creation.
Maybe, if we all recognized that Love was the glue and Life Dynamic at the heart of all existence, we would treat ourselves, each other, and all creation with greater reverence, empathy, gentleness, and compassion.