Writing things down has always been clarifying for me, and my spiritual journey this last year or so has taken some whip-lashing turns. I am using this post to process my recent journey. If it resonates or helps you out, I’m thrilled!
My faith has been a journey since the beginning, with my beliefs and thoughts constantly being assessed, examined, and morphed along the way. I’ve always taken my spiritual life very seriously, spent time praying, reading the Bible and many other spiritual books, learning and growing. As a young woman, I believed in a loving God – but that love was only extended to people who chose to believe in Jesus. Anyone who chose not to – or who never heard the name Jesus before dying – was doomed to eternity in hell.
Cracks started to appear in that mold as I traveled the world and met devout people of different faiths who believed as reverently as I did in their respective religions. I had a hard time reconciling a God of love with someone who would let all these faithful people suffer for eternity. So many of us hardly even choose our religion, it mainly depends on where we are born. How cruel that someone could be doomed simply for being born into the wrong place/family/religion. I began to believe there must be more ways to connect – that Jesus was a human man, yes, but also a spirit. And the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, must be able to convict and communicate with people outside of Christianity.
My faith loosened it’s possessive, exclusive death-grip on eternal life.
I was also meeting people I would have classified as “sinners” – Gay people –who still claimed to be Christian. Could something I believed in fervently from my youth be wrong? I looked into it, read the 6 passages of the Christian Bible that mention any semblance of homosexuality (not that that concept or word had been invented yet), read books and watched documentaries, and updated my beliefs. Science confirmed that people are born wired for sexual attraction of different types, this exists in nature, and if that’s how people are naturally made, then God must have made them and loves them the same as all of God’s children.
My faith became less judgmental.
Then I sat for a moment one day and thought about actual Hell for 30 seconds. Could I truly, possibly believe that a human who lived a mere 45 years of life on Earth and never “prayed the prayer” or committed their soul to God would be doomed for all eternity?!? Actual millions and billions of years of torment and suffering because they didn’t make the right choice in their brief blink of life? That seems incomprehensibly cruel and the exact opposite of a God defined as Love itself. If God is Love, as the Bible states, I couldn’t possibly believe that Love would allow eternal suffering. Some other way must exist. I didn’t pretend to know what that might look like – purgatory, refining fires in Heaven, scandalous grace and mercy for all – who really knows?
My faith became less black and white.
And then I educated myself a bit on evolution. When the topic came up in high school, I had righteously covered my ears and ran to the Creationist history teacher I knew for solace and confirmation, and missed out on that education. After reading a book on the human fossil record, I saw how many links there are out there who aren’t human, but aren’t ape, rather something distinctly in-between (Australopithecus sediba, homo habilis, homo erectus, homo heidelbergensis, neanderthals). Did they all go to Heaven too?
My faith became filled with mystery.
And what really is Heaven by the way? We’ve seen far out into space enough to know there aren’t mansions in the sky anywhere close. It must not be a physical place. Is it in another dimension? The spiritual realm?
And who really is God by the way? Richard Rohr pointed out that many modern day Christians really still believe in a pagan god – in Zeus up in the clouds, watching us with love or judgement, ready to rain down blessings or punishment. It hit me like a ton of bricks – I believed in a God who was essentially human. I thought there was a person of some kind who knew me, made me, loved me, cared about me – but a person. Rohr says that God isn’t so much a being, as being itself.
The Bible itself talks about the presence of God in all of Creation. Colossians 1:17 points out that “He (Christ) existed before all things, and all things are held together in him,” and later in chapter 3:11 blatantly says “Christ is all things and in all people.” Jesus said “the Kingdom of God is within you,” and analogies such as the vine and branches make the point that God is in us – “If you remain in me and I in you…”
So if what we call God is the force of life that animates and gives us all soul, consciousness, being, then why am I praying to God and not gravity? Gravity is this invisible force that is holding us all together, keeping objects from floating off into space. It’s constant, omnipresent, ensuring none of us gets lost in the emptiness of space. My concept of God is starting to feel comparable to gravity. There is something that makes us sentient. Humans are more than mere physical bodies, we are clearly some type of spiritual being as well. But is that force really a person-like figure somewhere out there who has a personal relationship with us?
If life itself is divine – if we are all divine by the fact of our existence – then that changes how I look at my fellow humans. That changes how I live and operate in this world full of living creatures. Suddenly I don’t care what label you choose for yourself. I don’t care about religious labels, gender labels, national labels. We’re all humans, no matter how we look, where we live, who we love, or what we believe. If we are all a part of this mysterious, beautiful, at times horrific, thing called Life – we are all connected at the deepest level. Every living thing is animated by this same force that brings Life – God, Love, Creator, Consciousness, Universe, however we choose to label it.
There’s a new analogy I heard along this level of belief: that we are all from a single Source – this unifying, animating force of Life – that can compared to the Ocean. And our human life on planet Earth is like being a drop flung from the Ocean in the spray of a wave. For a moment, we have our own, unique, individual consciousness. We can revel in the feeling of life – of flying through the air, taking in the blue sky, the sights, sounds, and smells of life – before dropping back into the Ocean and rejoining the Source.
I love the imagery of that. Our life is a blur, a drop in the bucket of time. There’s no denying that. And no one truly knows what comes next any more than any of us remember where we came from before birth. But for now, we are flying through the air, above the crystal blue water, and can try our best to make that flight full of love, joy, and peace rather than fear, judgement and pain.
There are so many things we have no control over – where we are born, to which family, how we look, the amount of wealth and power we enter life with, natural disasters and our physical health – and many of us suffer through no fault of our own. Life is random. Certain groups of people have clawed and clutched all the power to themselves, are self-centered and unwilling to look out for the greater good. Good and bad things happen to good and bad people. But we have some control over our response, our attitude, our ways to function, believe and live in this world.
I choose to live my splash through the air with freedom – freedom from “shoulds,” from cultural expectations and restrictions. Freedom from categorizing, judging, and comparing my status to others. Freedom from shame. Freedom to be who I truly am, however that looks and sounds. Freedom to be open and vulnerable with my fellow drops of water. I don’t know what happens after this, where “I” will go when my splash rejoins the great Ocean. But I will chose Love, light, joy, and freedom at every chance I get.