When it comes to spirituality, I am a lot of things, and a lot of labels. I best describe me as an Anabaptist Christian Liberal with Catholic leanings seasoned by spiritual mystics from various practices and faiths. My spiritual exercises include yoga, physical exertion, prayer, liturgy, meditation, Bible study and reading.
I guess you could describe me as eclectic.
But here’s what I am not: God.
And I have no interest in the job.
You should all breathe a sigh of relief. If I were God, we’d all be screwed.
I worry however that The Nones, that 59 million-strong swell of people who don’t associate with any one religion, may trick themselves into thinking they are God. What may start out as an earnest search for truth may become a lazy default that defines God or rejects God based on personal needs and wants or something so banal as convenience. We are too lazy to find God, we don’t want to ascribe to someone else’s view of God, so we simply dismiss God or invent our own.
The end result is what I call Mr. Potato God, a bizarre concoction of our own making that helps our deluded selves feel a bit better, but matters not at all.
I trod a fine line here and one that’s hard to get right without pissing off a whole host of 59 million people who I would love to connect with. Still, I think its important so I’ll try to get it right.
By all rights, I am one of The Nones. I do resemble them. Like many of The Nones, I am educated, under the age of 55 and spiritually curious. Rather than accept the dogma of a single brand of faith, I am guilty of picking and choosing a bit. From the above description of my faith it would be easy to think I just pick and chose my faith from a buffet, defining God however best suits me.
It’s a fair accusation and assumption, but I don’t think it is accurate. I am not the one who decides my faith. I am not inventing a God that works for me. To be blunt, I don’t need a God I can create. Instead, I see God as something of a puzzle. When a piece slides into place it’s not because I cut it to fit, but because it belongs right there. I may not have a good grasp of the whole puzzle but I know when a piece belongs.
The problem is not God, it’s me: my limitations, my lack of faith and my moral decay that keeps me from living On Earth as it is in Heaven.
That’s what transformation is all about. Knowing God in truth. God is God. The ways we understand Her are as varied as the types of tropical fish in the ocean times a million. Spiritual roads are varied but in the end, if truth is sought and love is found, there is God.
It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Many times along my spiritual trek I have wanted to fit God in where I felt He should go. When my life hit bottom I pleaded, insisted and convinced myself the miracle would be a comin’ and I’d be given a reprieve. I couldn’t have been more wrong, time and time again. I learned to humbly accept that God is untamed and unbowed. I must discover Her, not invent her to suit my needs.
I found God more in my suffering than I ever did in times of so-called blessing. The Buddhists and the Christian mystics had this figured out long ago. It took so much pain to understand it. Believe me, if I were God, or even allowed to make God, I’d remove the suffering part of things. But I am not and suffering remains a part of the journey.
I am convinced the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was a prophetic gift from God. It’s power is in the spiritual truths the steps follow. It’s a spiritual program and has been since its discovery by a couple of desperate drunks willing to seek God and try anything to stay sober.
But the notion that a Higher Power is whatever we want it to be remains a difficult one for me. I understand the need from an addict’s standpoint to start with whatever we can imagine God to be. But at some point along the 12-step path, we must allow the Higher Power to unveil itself regardless of what we can imagine. That’s how the 12-step founders saw it and I think they were right. I think we’ve shape-shifted this idea into places it wasn’t meant to go. We’ve made a Higher Power that is little more than a Mr. Potato God.
In the end such a God will disappoint.
My default preference is toward atheism. Mentally, life would be easier if it were random and death final. It suits my built-in recklessness. It explains the epidemic of selfishness and arrogance I see today. It makes idiocy like anti-social media make sense.
But in the core of my being I know God to exist. I’ve met the spirit in certain moments. In times of acute suffering, disappointment, failure, injustice I have recognized the presence of God with me. In times of utter joy, grace, blessing and beauty I feel God’s touch and breath. Nothing else has ever so radically redefined my life.
The challenge for me over the past thirty-two year off-road trek with God has not been to decide if I believe, it has been to uncover who it is that has called me by name. I only want to know the real, true, creator God. I only seek truth.
I find puzzle pieces from many different expressions of faith. This is what makes me like The Nones. I’m confident that a vast number of that vast number of The Nones have experiences and spiritual journey’s similar to my own. They too don’t think they are God.
But we all must walk lightly. Too often our need defines what we insist God be. By definition God can’t be so minimized and remain deity. In those times it takes great courage and relentless honesty to search for the living God.
The Nones are wary of those peddling religious certitude and there I join them wholeheartedly. God is a mystery and will remain so. The puzzle is never fully filled until the other side of Heaven on Earth. So we don’t know everything. We don’t even know how much we don’t know. This is why we reject those who insist they do. This is why we pick and choose a bit. Not because we think we are inventing a God of our choice–each making our own Mr. Potato God–but because we think truth is worth discovering wherever and whoever has a piece of it.
But this difference, this central idea of God being God and not us creating Him, is a vital one for all spiritual seekers, Nones or not.