This post is part of a series entitled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of Our Own. It is the eighth section Reflection I: Opening to the Divine Mystery: Discerning Our Attitude Toward God.
A Prayer of Our Own
Opening to the Divine Mystery
Discerning Our Attitude Toward God
Richard’s Answer To Question #1
Is there a God? What is God for me? Who is God for me? How do I know? Am I open to bringing these important questions into my prayer? Am I open to the possibility of my answers to these questions being transformed and growing ever deeper?
My spiritual Director once asked me “Who is God for you?” I responded that “God is a Mysterious Other that permeates the universe, including me.” She then asked me, “Is that enough?” I responded, “It is the only thing that is enough!” That is still my answer today, and it is still enough. I have some ideas beyond that, but in the end this is all I really know, and best I can tell, it is all that is possible to know and even that requires that we accept a knowledge that comes from deep inside and cannot be proved scientifically.
First let me say that I do believe there is a God. I do not believe that God is a person or anything like a person. For me it just makes no sense to think of God as a person. It raises too many other questions for me. If I try to see God as a person I am immediately faced with the question of where this “person” resides. If I try to answer that by saying that God resides in “heaven” I essentially beg the question. Where is “heaven”? And how does this “person” interact with each of us individually as we claim? How is that possible? Many of us blow those kinds of questions off with an answer similar to “because ‘he’ is God”. For me that again begs the question “Is God a person?” and prevents us from looking at that question in a deeper more open way. It also leads us to start assigning various human attitudes to God which in the end leads us to all kinds of other problems and conflicts. For me it is much more honest to “just say no”, God is not a person. At least then I can be open to the possibility of a deepening understanding of God.
In the end I believe that God is to be found somehow woven into the fabric of creation itself, into consciousness itself, and into “the force” that creates, animates, and guides the entire universe including us. I believe that through spiritual practice and specifically through prayer we can connect with that Mysterious Presence and receive guidance, strength, and courage from that “force”. I believe that our job, “if we choose to accept it”, is ultimately to connect with that force and to live our lives in response to that force. Said another way, we are called to listen to our own sacred inner voice where that mysterious presence we call God speaks to us , discover, how that voice calls us to live our lives, and to incarnate those discoveries into the way we actually experience and live our lives. As the monastics put it, we are called to divine union. Ultimately this process of discovery and incarnation process must be one of the primary reasons we pray.
I want to be clear here. I realize that this explanation, much like the God is a person explanation, raises more questions than it answers, but for me it seems a much more honest approach. Besides I know that approach works for me. It changes my life. I am not hiding behind canned explanations. I remain open to deepening my understanding, and even to changing it completely based on new evidence and new experience, or if that still small voice calls me to.
Yet, beyond all of this reasoning and all of this speculation about what God is or is not my understanding is ultimately based on personal experience. Jacob Needleman starts his book, What Is God? with this story:
I don’t know how long we both continued to sit there, silently. But finally, speaking in a voice that I had never heard from him before, he said:“That’s God.”*
In a very real sense that is my God too. It reaches past all of the science, all of the reason, all of the culture, and all of the religion to personal experience, and yet it is not in opposition to any of those sources. In these and other similar experiences, in times of silence and solitude, and yes, in times of prayer, the Mysterious Other I call God is just there, present in a way that transcends all of the questions and explanations. In the end God is simply a presence I experience in those special times.
For me that mysterious presence is God. I find that mystery absolutely fascinating and exploring that mystery excites me and gives my life meaning. That mystery is much more fascinating and exciting than any of the more traditional images or any of the theology. Precisely because the “God question” is such a profound mystery I am open to all of the awesome insights provided by science, by reason, by the all of the cultures of the world, and all of the religions of the world. I am open to all of the fascinating “answers” provided by all of those sources. Because I can see so many wondrous possibilities I look forward with anticipation to new discoveries, new insights, and to an ever deepening sense of that Mysterious Presence in my life and in this awesome universe.
In the meantime I am still very comfortable with the answer I gave my spiritual director years ago. “God is a Mysterious Other that permeates the universe, including me.” and yes “It is [still] the only thing that is enough!”
* Needleman, Jacob: What Is God?, (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2009) p. 5-6.
Other Posts in this Reflection:
Is There A God View…
Discerning Our Attitude Toward God
Models of Christian Spirituality View…
Seeking Divine Union
God In The Image of Man View…
Avoiding the Challenge
Traditional Models View…
What Do They Mean Really?
Negative Images View…
Policeman, Judge, and Tyrant
Our Way Or The Highway
God As Mystery View…
What or Who Is God