How can we know when God is real
and answering? Must we be content
with “it seems to me”?
— from Faith & Will by Julia Cameron
Cameron continues, “Every morning I seek to find God. Here is where I am, God. Can you find me? … We are all looking for God, for a connection that will feel real enough to get us through the day. A sense of companionship and connection. How do we know we are being guided by God? That we are moving in the right direction? …
Take yourself to the page. Writing yields clarity. There is something in moving our hand across the page that can also help to make God’s will visible to us. In seeing our alternatives, we can sometimes see the face of God. We are not powerless. We are not without choices. We are not trapped. We do have dignity. All of this can be revealed by time at the page.”
I have times when I am filled with nothingness — the total absence of belief.
And I long to be certain of my faith. Many other times my faith is sure, as real to me as my ability to touch my own children, as I see the reflection of God on my life.
But absolutes do not come to me easily. Although the order and complexity of the universe must lead back to a creator God, I am not certain of many other aspects of organized religion and religious people. Why is there hate and bigotry among religious people? Why do good people become dogmatic and judgmental when they find “religion”? Why is evangelical faith seemingly so exclusive? Why are conservatives so afraid of things and people that are different from them and their experiences? Why don’t people’s lives show their beliefs more often?
I’m just saying. Though these thoughts border on judgmental and that is not my intention. I just see so many people who go to church but their lives are not much different otherwise; Christians who seem to live for self-interest. I fear becoming that person. Perhaps I already am though that is what I pray is being changed.
I wake many mornings wondering if I am simply a speck on the planet earth with no higher purpose than to wake. eat. work. play. love. sleep. and do it again for a hundred years if I am lucky? No greater purpose than to try to stay physically healthy and mentally alert, so that this experience of living isn’t entirely miserable and hope that I don’t lose my mind before my body betrays me. Wait to die and the end is simply that, the end. Full stop.
Okay, that’s cynical me.
At other times, I believe my life has purpose. And my reason for being is twofold:
- to move closer to God — grow in my knowledge of God through disciplines of prayer and study and practical application of the teachings of Jesus. Hope that this relationship is in some way attractive to others who do not believe. Hope that something in my life is curious and interesting enough that they ask “What is it that makes your life different?”
- to move closer to others — my family, friends, and community in a healthy and productive way. Make a contribution, do some good and give a shit about people.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
I spend most days in the in-between.
I know that anything good about me is because of God. I know this isn’t me. I have been changed from a selfish, broken and sad human being into something else. I am sure this isn’t me. If left to myself I think I would have stayed an angry, bitter, suspicious judgmental workaholic, an absentee mother focused on her own interests, and eventually I would likely have become a drunk, stumbling through life hurting all the people who I love.
So at the very least, the precepts that the Christian faith are based on have changed me for the better. And, as I have received the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, I have been able in a supernatural and healing way to forgive myself and others. That’s real.
I will hold on to these miraculous faith experiences. Cynical though I may be, this is real. That is what I am left with today. It is enough.
As Julia Cameron says in Faith & Will:
“What if there really is a benevolent God, one that will try to work with us as we labor to work with him? What if the harmony that we see in the natural world is possible also in the world of human affairs? What if we can move toward this harmony simply by trying to move toward God? What if the trying is enough? What if God really is the Great Comforter? … What if all that stands between us and God is us?”
In the coming days, I am going to be making a conscious effort to listen. Writing about all of this will be a part of that process.