"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Believing


My cousin Sal and I were in the midst of one of our frequent, and deeply satisfying, conversations about the nature of God, how religion does or does not reflect that nature, and our own experiences of the divine. Just naming the topic of our conversation is often interesting. "God" was used in my earlier experience as a weapon and a means of control. It was a synonym for shame and judgement. But after years of trying different names, "God"is the only one that really works for me.

I'm never really sure what I mean when I talk about God. I've mostly shed my childhood picture of the angry old man with the big white beard - sort of an anti-Santa - who was just looking for me to mess up so he could punish me. I've never not believed in a higher power, but in the last few years, my understanding of what that means has expanded to the point of my having to simply accept the mystery beyond human understanding.

In this last conversation with Sal, one of us (or both - we often have some of our more brilliant insights piggy-backing off one another's ideas) said, "You can't believe God into existence. He exists with our believing or without."

I knew right away we were saying a version of, "Bidden or not bidden, God is present." Most often this quote is attributed to Carl Jung and I remember feeling a huge sense of relief the first time I saw it. Partly because I've always thought Jung's wisdom came from a soul-deep place, and partly because it felt safe - like I didn't have to work quite so hard any more.

But it was the believing part  of what we said that felt different and significant.

While I chose not to use AA in my path to recovery, when I first became sober I was thrilled to know the only path to freedom from the grips of alcohol involved relying on a higher power. Some being who knew more than I did, who had unlimited capacity for patience and understanding, and who apparently loved me just as I was.

From the time I was old enough for any awareness, I knew God existed because of the colors, fragrances and wild lives that flourished with no human intervention. I wouldn't have named that experience God, in fact couldn't for years, because the name was already taken by the punishing old guy. However, those times when I was outside, warmed by a gentle sun, stroked by a playful wind, watching deer graze in a meadow surrounded by the simple light of daisies - those were the times I felt a certain rightness and connection to life that didn't exist at any other time. That has not changed in nearly six decades.

I have a number of friends who believe in no God beyond their own ability to be good or to live a full and meaningful life. I can't quarrel with that, or even argue them out of that belief. I don't want to. It's not my place. But when I'm in conversation with them, and consider what it might be to live that way, I can't - not really. Any more than I could consider living without breathing.

You can't believe God into existence. But, for me, believing in that existence is what gives life meaning, power and substance. To know that love exists in a bigger and deeper form than I'll ever be able to grasp offers not only comfort, but also a safe place to rest. I can't say exactly what I believe, but when a stranger smiles at me, or responds to my smile; when Walt looks at me with his kind and loving eyes; when the robins return declaring spring has to arrive because they have, I feel without doubt a love far too large to be simple human.

21 comments:

Terri Tiffany said...

I like that you share your journey. I like that God exists with or without our belief. I gave my life to him when I was twelve but we've had our battles for sure. My faith grows and wans but deep down, I always know he cares for me even when no one else does. And really, in a situation like I find myself now, that knowledge is my rock and my world. Blessings and enjoy your day:)

Lilith said...

Tolstoy wrote a book "The Kingdom of God is Within You" which greatly influenced Mahatma Gandhi. I think God exists within all of us, within everything, especially nature. Whether any of us is right or wrong, God only knows:)

deb colarossi said...

I agree.

I don't necessarily "do" religion , but oh I believe.

Donna said...

You think and feel so deeply...I am much more superficial unfortunately. I enjoy reading you, though and how you make me think about things I may not otherwise. I tend to "feel" and react. Not always good. Thanks for your lessons.

Stacy Crawford said...

I love your thoughts. For me, God is more of a Father figure. He loves all of us and want us to return to live with him someday. Like a good Father He is concerned when we do things wrong, sometimes those things have consequences, but never does he stop loving us. Just like my own children, doesn't matter what they do, I will always love them.

Wanda said...

The Beloved loves us. From some of us, His Love is unrequited. (I use the masculine pronoun on purpose here--as the Sufis, where we, the feminine beloved are the recipient of His love.

I cannot breathe without the love of the Beloved.

yaya said...

Your post reminded me of a quote from a movie...can't remember which one...that said "just because you don't believe it, doesn't mean it's not true"..I have always believed in God, when I was younger sometimes with fear, and now as I'm older, it's with love and understanding. Beautiful post and thanks for sharing your journey.

Barb said...

Hi Deb, I believe in the Divine in all of us - that we are all a part of the fabric of something much larger than ourselves. I keep coming back to this line from your former post: "absolute nothingness containing the promise of everything" It applies here as well.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Thanks so much for giving us food for thought.
I was raised by a loving Christian mom. She believed in the trinity, and a loving God.
I'm a believer now because of the path she walked.
Bless you for writing this.B

the wanderer said...

i am so glad to have found you, and this post... i was thinking on this topic yesterday--well, for the last 4 years, really. and just like you, i am still working it out--the word for "god", the way of "god", the feeling that i have when i recognize "god" in life.
most LOve,
thewanderer

Niki said...

amen.

Kathryn Grace said...

You articulate perfectly my own experience of the divine. Thank you so much!

Carrie Link said...

It's a shame the word God is so loaded, and that the concept is so troubling. NECBM of finding a peace with that, whatever that peace looks like and whatever labels do or do not come with it.

LauraX said...

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Wanda..... said...

I don't believe it's meant to be understood, as a young child I often tried to picture absolute nothingness...no earth no clouds no universe...seems impossible to fathom nothing or what God is.

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

Interesting and Insightful post. Yes, God does exist whether one believes or not. Anyone who has eyes of understanding can clearly see his existence.

Rom. 1:20: “His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made.”

Aside from his own Written Word, God also gave us his Book of Creation to tell us of his existence and his personality.

Hebrews 4:10: "Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God."

Illustration: When we see a camera, a radio, or a computer, we readily acknowledge that it must have been produced by an intelligent designer. Would it be reasonable, then, to say that far more complex things—the eye, the ear, and the human brain—did not originate with an intelligent Designer?

Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts about God.

Leslie said...

I could not have described the way I feel--exactly the same as you do--any better, Deb! BEAUTIFUL post!

Katie Gates said...

Beautiful post. Brings to mind a line from Henry Miller -- "Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything God-like about God, it is that. He dared to imagine everything."

kario said...

Lovely! I love the conversations you have with your family members. And I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter what you call it/him/her. You feel it and know it deeply, that's enough.

Amber said...

I agree so much.

:)

Linda Hoye said...

Such an insightful and thoughtful post, Deb. I like that quote "Bidden or not bidden, God is present." It's what I believe.