Saturday, September 13, 2008

When God Speaks...


I had a number of interesting conversations on my recent trip back home where I saw much of my spread out family and observed the ultimate passing of my dear Uncle Ted from this life. To know my family is to know that eventually there will be talk of God, faith and religion. While I admittedly find myself outside of the religious mainstream with a quite individualistic faith regarding God and the world at large, I still think these conversations are beneficial to all of us in pursuing mutual understanding and love...unconditional and as we are. After all, isn't that the kind of love most peaceful religions espouse? While faith SHOULD be something private, it definitely comes out in what we say and how we live more than by the claims we make.

Often times when we have these conversations, I think the exercise of communicating beliefs and experiences helps confirm the realities of our own experiences and thinking. Sometimes, until you speak a thought...you're not sure if you really think/believe it or not. Sometimes I find myself saying something off the top of my head that comes off "hollow" or unsure. In many instances I have to take back what I said or at least make a mental note to pursue the veracity of what I just said (I know that's hard for some of you to believe who know me as quite sure and outspoken:)). Yet, I still couch many of these discussions with the statement that "the older I get, I realize how much more there is to know". I think science is much the same...the more we discover the more questions arise as well. Life is a never ending sequence of search and discovery...which leads to the next question or puzzle. If you like puzzles, I should think life will always be interesting.

When I listen to people talk about how God talks or "reveals" something to them, my mind perks up to the source or rationality of what was said. If you watch any American style evangelical television, most everyone who speaks on these shows talk about God "speaking" to them. It seems the Apostle Paul had no corner on "shining lights on the road to Damascus". Many fundamentalist church leaders on Tv or other media seem to "hear" from God often. Some say they "heard his voice". While I like to think I have had some "revelations" of my own in life, I have never heard an audible voice or bright light experience. I do think I have "sensed" evil in certain people or circumstances, and I have "sensed" goodness and seen a few miraculous things as well...but never that BIG event that seems to be the story of so many leading religious speakers or leaders. Am I missing out on something real, or am I just jealous of other's imaginations or fantasies? Maybe I'll never know.

Like I stated in a previous blog about "Existential Christianity", I still hold on to many fundamental beliefs that I grew up with that have guided or given purpose and definition to my life at various times. Some from my past say that I have become too "secular", "rational" or "philosophical" for my own spiritual good. I do often feel a significant gap between what I think/believe versus most churches or religions...and my extreme desire to see a united versus divided humanity has probably soured my taste for organized religion and dogma which I have seen as a catalytic divider of human kind. I have little interest in theological debate anymore and don’t like labels on people...like "Christian, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Republican or Democrat". I just think life is too mysterious and complicated to sum up ourselves as one label or another. I don't like using "The Bible" as a proof text of everything I think or say. Instead of being known as a "religious" man, I would rather be described with adjectives like loving, caring and/or honest. It is much more difficult to accomplish those things than to adopt a religion. Yet, I do think at the root of those human drives to do right is a loving God who set things in motion. I'm not sure when it was...whether 5000 or 50,000 years ago...and I do think that many religious stories are meant to be allegories and lessons versus absolute historic fact...and at the end of the day, I don't need those stories in order to have faith. Here's why...

I believe God speaks to each and every one of us in a unique and clear way. Some of us listen, some of us don't, but to some degree all of us know right from wrong. I have known many "non churched" secular friends or acquaintances who have very defined and disciplined senses of morality. Sure, maybe many of their views or reasoning is based on previous generations influence on them...but everyone comes to a point in life in which they have to decide for themselves what is right or wrong, true or untrue...or just a big question mark.

"Pilgrims Progess" by John Bunyan is a classic written 250 years ago that really clicked with me as a teenager. I felt a strong connection to the allegory of the pilgrim on an adventurous journey through life looking for truth. He meets many influences along the way and struggles to sort through those various voices to find truth within his own soul. I see 21st Century life as much the same search and struggle. Many people seem to have "arrived" and been satisfied with their experiences and understanding without much need to explore further, while many of us continue to strive forward...not quite there yet. Personally, I think that is Ok...and probably more "normal".

But, I do think God has spoken to me in various ways. I think he made us with a mind for "discovery". I think he is BEHIND science and put in us the desire to know and understand the secrets of the universe. I think he set into motion free will so we would not be robots just going around mindlessly following our "programming". I think we have learned behaviors that extremely limit our minds and therefore actions to reach our potential.

Ways God has spoken to me...

• Through "cause and effect", he has shown me SOME of the order of the universe that to me has obvious intelligence behind it...not just some happenchance combination of atoms coming together...

• Through the caring and nurture of family and friends and the DNA of my family that runs through my genes...

• Through the eyes of small children at play or in distress...they are the true reflection of God in space and time. "Come as a little child"...

• Through the kindness of strangers and exchange of ideas that often provide such rich content and truths...

• Through a myriad of intelligent writers who reflect history, ideas and rich truths passed down for centuries...

• Through the struggle to live, as recently observed in the deaths of loved ones...

• Through the magical observations of nature and the cycle of food chains, plant pollination, the pure beauty of birds in flight. How can there not be a divine order to life?

• Through the power of love, the daily romance, connectedness and happiness experienced in marriage or a long term partnership...

• And yes...that inner voice...whether it be God, self, or some other name you want to call it...which brings direction, hope, fortitude in distress, peace in the middle of conflict, or just continual flashes from memory so we don’t repeat our mistakes and get burned again by our vain and selfish ways...

Yes, God has spoken to me a lot during my life...and it has been a quiet, calm voice of love and compassion. It has led to a "road less taken" with very little rancor or harsh judgment. I adhere to that voice as closely and sincerely as possible...for my own good and the good of others.

4 comments:

Bibiana said...

Lindo Blog.

Muy interesante, de acuerdo, Dios nos habla y nosotros escuchamos, de mil formas.

Algunos escuchan otros no, otros no entienden o no quieren entender, otros siguen su libertad y propias creencias.

Es fundamental, todo lo que uno aprende en su ninez y la influencia de estos tiernos anos en la edad adulta.

Dios y su hijo Jesus nos mostraron el camino correcto, que es muy dificil. Amor, respeto por los demas, humildad.

No todos podemos seguir estos preceptos, son dificiles, especialmente cuando se tiene una vida comoda sin afanes ni sufrimientos de ningun tipo.

La vida es asi, pero es mas facil cuando se aceptan las cosas como son y sin juzgar ni reprochar.

Tengo la fortuna de ser parte de la familia de mi esposo Ed, ellos son verdaderamente increibles, buenas personas, es refrescante compartir tiempo con esta linda familia.

Amemonos los unos a los otros como yo los he amado. Dice Dios.

Yellow Rose of AZ said...

Just one question for you, Ed, who is Jesus Christ?

edward said...

Yellow Rose...I have a feeling you have a more complete answer than I do.:) I'm all ears (eyes)...

Gary said...

My experience with Baptist/evangelical theology can best be described as a wild Roller Coaster ride: a lot of great psychological, emotional, and spiritual highs and a lot of deep psychological, emotional, and spiritual lows. Why?

In Baptist theology, your Justification and your Sanctification---your essence as a follower of Christ...if you boil it all down...is really dependent on you and your feelings.

Do I feel saved? Do I feel I really repented in my born again experience? Do I feel that I truly had faith when I made a decision for Christ; when I prayed a version of the Sinner's Prayer? If I am really saved, why do I feel at times that my faith is so weak? Maybe I need to do the born again experience again; maybe I need to pray the Sinner's Prayer again, just to be 100% sure that I am saved. I want to know without any doubt that I am saved, and if I do not feel saved, I begin to doubt my salvation.

Baptist/evangelical theology tells me that I will always feel Christ's presence and strength inside me, if I am a true believer. But what if I don't feel him there sometimes? If it is true that I should always be able to hear God speak to me, in an inner voice or feel his inner presence move me/lead me to do his will, what is going on when I don't hear anything or feel anything? Have I committed some unknown sin and he is refusing to hear me? Or is the reason that I don't hear or feel him present within me... is because I'm not really saved!

I was so incredibly happy to find orthodox Lutheranism and find out that my feelings have nothing to do with my Justification, my salvation, nor with my Sanctification, my walk with my Savior and Lord! My salvation was accomplished 100% by God.

http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/09/tired-of-baptistevangelical-roller.html