WARNING – this post may trigger some of you to put on your God-police badge, don your God-judge robe, and be ready to swing your God-executioner ax across my scrawny neck – all in the name of love I’m sure – but I urge you to stop right now, take a deep breath (or several) and prepare to simply read with an objective, peaceful, frame of mind. My thoughts may or may not align with yours, but that doesn’t make me less of a compassionate human for thinking them.
God is real. I really believe that! But finding Him and figuring out which sources to trust while seeking Him is a daunting task. Throughout my life I’ve attended many churches, researched written texts, reviewed archaeological findings, and listened to personal testimony all in an attempt to put down a concrete foundation which proves His existence in a way I can settle the matter once and for all. Along the way, through all my “discoveries”, I’ve found myself waffling between being firmly convinced of His accessibility to being utterly disappointed in His apparent lack of engagement. Yet, I still haven’t given up my intrinsic belief in the Almighty God’s existence and I continue to seek Him.
Everyone has their own world view which is in part based upon their past experiences, education, hand-me-down opinions, fantasies, and pure blind faith. What shapes one person’s view in such a way that helps them make sense of the world around them may be so completely foreign to another person that the two find themselves at irreconcilable odds. On the surface and viewed objectively – knowing that people are willing to kill (and die) to defend their personal belief in a particular way of life (and way of after-life) – the very idea of a God-seeking humanity seems utterly absurd. Yet people vehemently stand by their belief systems and still no one I’ve come across seems to be able to provide proof positive that their way is THE way. Because I was raised in a Christian home and Christian community, my world view and belief system has always been, and probably always will be, skewed towards filtering things through my Christian lens.
But I’ve often wondered how I can be SURE that I am on the right path to the one true God and His calling in my life. And who hasn’t pondered the reason for man’s existence and the wondered about what the afterlife looks like? Are there really eternal implications of how we conduct our lives in the here and now? If only I could ask someone – someone with the authority to answer – you know – like God himself.
As a small child, my pea brain churned over these thoughts and sometimes I would ask the trusted adults around me if they knew the answers. They gave me kind, loving responses indicating that God had it all worked out and I don’t need to worry, which placated me at the time but left a gnawing feeling that something was missing. How could I know– and not just believe on faith? Where exactly is God anyway so I can ask him directly?
Lots of silence was the answer to that.
Once I could read, libraries were my favorite place to hang out and dig a little deeper on my own– but the going was slow; the materials were limited and often outdated.
As I grew older I spent time in counsel with church members and leaders trying to get their take on the matter, but they didn’t seem any more convinced than I was as to His exact whereabouts when I pressed them with challenging questions.
Insert droning, audible silence.
I’ve read countless versions and translations of the Bible and studied with fervor both in groups and in solitary.
What was that sound? Oh, it’s silence.
The advent of the internet with its growing instant availability to articles, documents, opinions, and other materials along with its access to actual people in other countries and their cultures, has expanded my knowledge base considerably regarding how other people view life, God, and the hereafter. Of course, we have to be extra discerning in this digital age considering any wacko can self-publish anything on the internet (you’re reading MY blog, aren’t you?) but, I think that with enough cross examination and objectivity one can scrounge up “reputable enough” internet sources to be content with their veracity. All I got for my efforts was…
Mind numbing silence.
I’ve prayed to, sung to, talked with, yelled at, argued with, and wept with the God I believe is in power. At times I’ve felt like I’ve been heard, but not answered – not really.
Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence.
I’ve come up short on answers thus far but I’m not giving up. I still really just want to go to the top (God) with my questions but I’m at a loss as to how to get there. One thing I have learned through all my research and reasoning, is that surely God – THE God – must be known to other cultures and peoples which coexist across this globe who are outside of the sphere of Christian influence. To place limits on God’s presence, activity, and preferred ways of communication is to limit God Himself. And lets face it, a limited God is nothing more than a god (small g – man’s delusion) and is not the one true God who created the heavens and earth and all things in them. So, let’s talk about God (big G). Not WHO He is – I don’t question His existence – but rather WHERE He is.
If you have to ask then you don’t know.
God is with me – just a prayer away I’m pretty sure. But sometimes His presence feels elusive, like He’s just out of reach, hiding around the corner. There are times though, when His whereabouts are utterly unknown to me and I feel like I’m all alone living in a void. Yet at other times, it feels like he’s right next to me chatting like an old friend and hugging me close. And on some rare nights He visits me briefly in vivid dreams which leaves a long-lasting impression of a thought I need to embrace or an action I ought to take. So how do I reconcile this alternating sense of His divine, loving presence with apparent icy, cold aloofness? Does He actually leave me like it sometimes feels? Or, could He really be there all the time and I’m simply blindly unaware of His presence? Is it my own sin that separates me from recognizing Him, as I have read in the Bible and been taught by many a pastor? If that were the case, then I would most likely never feel His blessed companionship, for nary a day goes by that I don’t commit one sin or another – either unintentionally or (gasp) in full awareness. And I suspect that the rest of humanity (including all the dedicated pew fillers) is not too unlike me in that regard – most of the time we try to avoid sinning but we just can’t seem to keep from stepping in the steaming piles of poo we have blatantly squirted in our own paths. And if Jesus died to save me from my sin (all of my sin – not just the sin I committed before accepting his gift of saving grace), then He surely knew my sinful nature is pervasive and not something I can easily or completely control. No, my sin alone cannot be the thing that separates me from an awareness of God’s presence at times. Honestly, I do feel like He’s with me most of the time, but if he does take a Colleen break… where does He go?
He’s probably at church, right?
Let’s focus on Christianity here for a moment and say that I want to seek God out in a place of worship when I feel the need to put Him back into my personal space. Which church is the one true church – the one actually condoned and endorsed by God Himself? They all claim to have a corner on that market, yet there are so many differences between them – pretty darn big differences I might add. As I examine various paths of Christendom: Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism, Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, or even Mormonism, each branch would say they are following His one true calling and His one true religion. They can’t all be right. Or can they? Could it be that God wants to show us that He can be reached through a variety of methods and that He’s less concerned about the nuts and bolts of daily life than He is with the big picture? The big picture being, that as Christians, we are to recognize Jesus as our savior, forsaking all other gods, and share His Gospel with others. But what if you’re not a Christian? If God is capable of endorsing all of the Christian sects as legitimate (I’m not saying He does), then couldn’t He also allow many other forms of worship and religious expression to be valid as well? Or, perhaps He doesn’t hang out in any place of worship at all since everybody insists with all of their “divinely inspired” piety that He’s exclusively at their place alone and people who claim otherwise are going straight to hell. However, there is no authority, past or present, which can validate with one hundred percent assurance the legitimacy of anyone’s claims of ownership of the one true God. Perhaps God is bigger than a place and form of worship…
Doesn’t the Bible have the answer?
OK, focusing again on Christianity here, this brings me to another sticking point. There is NO WAY the “Bible” has all the answers, because which Bible are we talking about anyway? Why are certain books included in the Bibles of some Christian denominations and yet considered Gnostic by others and therefore excluded, (and to be honest, downright vilified)? Still other texts exist (supposedly written at the same time as the original scriptures) which are written off as fantasy and heresy and are not included in any Bible anywhere. Such weighty decisions – the inclusion of texts deemed to be holy scripture inspired by God himself and the exclusion of texts determined to be of purely man-made origin – I’m told, were made by men long ago as a result of divine inspiration and we have no business questioning them. But why wouldn’t the Spirit (God himself) allow the men in charge to be consistent in their knowledge of which scriptures are the legitimate ones? Why are His people worshiping over here in one building allowed to affirm only certain books as Holy and other people in a different building right next door allowed to peruse bonus books? Each denomination’s Bible of choice, and the various accepted translations of it, is paraded within their communities as the only true Bible. Yet that cannot be the case. If we allow that Catholics and Methodists are children of the same God, why isn’t there more unity in what we consider to be the holy word of the Lord? Perhaps we should examine all scripture (sanctioned or not) and ask God to enlighten us as to what He wants us to believe or toss to the curb. Regardless of your opinion of the man, Martin Luther may have been right about giving the people access to the scriptures instead of relying on clergy to disseminate it. I’m a firm believer in doing one’s own research and one cannot possibly be satisfied with information passed down from a singular source (or collection of sources from the same segment of society). And then of course we haven’t even broached the topic of what is written about (and by?) God and passed on in other cultures and religions around the world. So far, I’m not convinced God lives between the covers of a book…
Ah, God is in your heart then…
Logically it seems to follow, that if God cannot reliably be found in a particular place of worship, or by reading a particular “approved” scripture, then he must reside in the hearts (figuratively speaking) of mankind alone. But is the heart of mankind to be trusted? From social media alone, it is evident that people all have different notions as to what constitutes the truth and they have different comfort levels in, and aptitudes for, telling lies. Ask every person you know about God and you’ll get wildly varying testimonies of His existence or non-existence. So, if I’m unsure that God keeps an apartment in your heart, how can I trust that my own little blood pumper isn’t uninhabited as well? I’ll tell you this – I KNOW my heart cannot be trusted! Some things I dearly believed in my heart to be true at one time turned out later to be a compete falsehood and fabrication in my own mind (Santa Clause anyone?). And who of you hasn’t been severely disappointed by something or someone which, upon reflection, have come to realize that YOU are to blame for your own reaction. YOU expected more out of a job, a relationship, a vehicle, (or whatever) than it was ever capable of providing. You gave that other person, thing, or situation qualities they never possessed and when they didn’t live up to your expectations, you were devastated. But it was your own heart that misled you into believing all those false expectations which you, yourself, created. And it’s the realization of knowing that we cannot trust our own hearts – which, by the way, is among the most sobering moments in life – that makes me doubt how God could ever want to dwell such a deceitful, fickle, organ as the human heart – figuratively or otherwise.
If you’re still reading, you may think I have come to the conclusion that God cannot possibly exist because I’ve shot down any confidence in establishing His whereabouts. Au contraire – I still believe in the existence of the Almighty Lord with all of my poor, pitiful heart, deceitful as it may be. I see His handiwork all around me. I cannot find it within my logical brain to embrace the idea that every living thing and its supporting ecosystems is simply a random assembly of atoms and cells which combined without any divine direction whatsoever to form the world as we know it. I’m pretty sure God’s divinity is bigger than what any book, building, or body part can hold. Certainly, I have more questions than answers and like all of mankind before me, I will die with these questions unanswered. Not unlike most of you, I hope to find a glorious future in the afterlife, but I’m not sure how to ascertain it in advance with complete assurance. But, despite my unending quest for answers, there are some things I DO know already:
- I know that forgiveness is a powerful tool. I employ it often and enjoy the peace it brings.
- I know that living in the moment is a gift. I try to stay out of the past, and hope today’s actions help bring a better future.
- I know that my thoughts and actions are my own. I don’t hold other people responsible for my choices.
- I know that love is comes in many forms. Even when you think it’s gone, there’s always more love to give.
- I know that as long as I can draw breath, I will get up off the ground and get my ass back in the saddle.
And I know that God, and the truth, is out there.
If you have answers, or even more questions, please share them with me here. I’d love to entertain your thoughts!