We have more in common with one another than we have things separating us. We are all human, for one. Beyond that, we all have experienced joy, fear, and pain, have felt the sting of humiliation, and rejection, are all passionate about something, we all wake up to the same sky every morning, and fall asleep to the same moon, and we all want to love and be loved. And, most of us believe there is an unseen force, an entity separate from us, yet connected, responsible for our creation or origins, and many share a belief in a heaven, or life beyond our earthly existence. How we view each of these, and what we believe about a presence apart from ourselves makes us different.
Likely, since the dawn of time, there has been dissension among the masses debating and arguing the minutiae and nuances of our belief systems. At the core of our beings we either know, want to know, or are searching for the energy source, the entity many believe is ‘out there’. Man has allowed, and continues to allow, the minute differences to separate us, so much so, wars are fought in the name of being right, people slaughtered in the name of God, and walls built around our sacred beliefs. We call those walls ‘religion’. Let’s face it; we all want to be right.
God is love. Every Christian who has ever darkened the doorway of a church or opened a Bible would agree. On the other side, those who choose the path of spirituality would also agree with that statement. In the 70’s and 80’s the pursuit of spirituality came to the forefront. This group of people were known as “New Agers”. New Age thinking combines theology, philosophy, and nature into a mindset influenced by Eastern thought, religious tolerance, and to a certain degree, moral diversity, or some would say, moral relativism. Now, before the hackles rise and the claws come out, for a moment let’s have an open mind. Just because some people believe in moral relativism, doesn’t mean everyone does.
Within Christianity, no two doctrines are exactly the same. Different ‘brands’ of church have chosen beliefs from the Bible to build their doctrines. One church may emphasize salvation as its principle doctrine, another may stress conformity to the point current culture is shunned, children are raised by harsh Biblical standards of discipline and punishment, everyone dresses in similar styles of clothing, and still others may focus efforts on ministering to the poor, the hungry, the abandoned, and the vulnerable of society, welcoming everyone through their doors. Some believe only those who have lived a life of ‘upright righteousness and piety’ are blessed and acceptable to God, and some believe God turns away no one. In other words diversity. On the other side of the line in the sand are those who have adopted a broader definition of God, love, acceptance, and spiritual practice derived from a variety of theologies. Diversity.
For most of my adult life we were part of a church ‘family’. Life with an abusive husband, however, systematically being stripped of dignity, and watching my children being mistreated, and powerless to do much about it, the whole idea of church left me a bit cold. (Before judgment sets in, wisdom cautions we do not have the right to judge until we have walked in another’s shoes.) With the passing of time and a fair amount of healing, I was able to see God as separate from church. Through soul-searching I found my way back to God and realized I wanted to journey with Him, wanted a relationship with Him based on love and not ‘rules’. My children showed me the path of spirituality, a journey of love, growth, and peace devoid of fear-based theology and manmade boundaries designed to control more so than provide a foundation of acceptance and understanding. True to my nature I read everything I could get my hands on, researched, and listened to those journeying with God in a different way. Church had taught me to fear those who had chosen to practice yoga, meditation instead of prayer, alternative energy healing modalities, or angel therapy, and believe that love was the only characteristic of God. This entity, this energy, or source of all we know, the seen and unseen, loves without judgment.
The pursuit and study of spirituality is a belief system different from Christianity, yet in many ways, similar. The ‘Law of Attraction’ is prevalent with those pursuing spirituality. We get what we put out there. Granted, a lot of the hype around the concept has to do with financial prosperity, but really the hype is a way to draw people in. We respond to the thought of wealth, do we not? The principle is sound. Jesus taught the ‘law of attraction’; it just wasn’t labeled in that way. ‘Ask and you will receive’, ‘if you have faith the size of a mustard seed’, ‘your faith has made you whole’, and many other similar scriptures throughout the Bible attest to the principle.
Those on a spiritual journey, and those on a more traditional journey with God believe God is love. The Bible provides a glimpse here and there of a journey with Divine Love apart from strict rules and discipline, but for the most part the fear factor precedes or succeeds the love God has for His creation. (I am aware I am using references to God as a male, however, I believe God is neither male, nor female) Man’s need for structure and organization have contributed to the religious construct, as has man’s need to control. It is the control issue I find more concerning. And, in part, believe it is the control issue driving people from the church toward different ways to journey with God.
An open mind is not a bad thing. As sentient beings, we have the capacity to decide for ourselves what resonates with us as individuals. No two people are alike so why must we all fit into a religious model forcing conformity versus guiding people toward God? Stripping away the walls of control erected by man and viewing Jesus as Divine Incarnate we can see Yeshua (Jesus) in a different light. Jesus taught; He didn’t force, coerce, or threaten. He was compassionate and loving, guiding others toward a relationship with God. It is through this lens a journey with the Divine makes sense for me. Others may need to view the journey from a bit different vantage point, but is their view inferior or superior to mine? No, it is not.
One of the doctors I work with is a Muslim and wears the dress of her culture. Because she is the Medical Director and works closely with our department I know her quite well. She easily and frequently references God – not in a “look at how pious I am” or in a name dropper way, but from the heart. It’s part of her fabric and comes as easily as telling someone her name. Few people were as excited for Christmas and the celebration many equate with Jesus’ birth than she, and she celebrated Ramadan earlier in the year, as well. Many would say because she is not a “Christian” defined by our standard of Christianity, she will not enter heaven. I beg to differ. Sincerity, heart motivation, intention is what I believe matters to the Divine. This woman has genuine concern for others, is not impressed with the letters she worked hard for and carries behind her name. She is a mother and wife first, then a doctor, and makes everyone feel important as if they are a friend as opposed to a number on a chart, or just another nurse among many. She is not a native of our country, and yet personifies the “American Dream”, not in the materialistic way many do, rather through valuing the ideals of America. She has taught me a lot.
Do you feel a tug, a desire to know and journey with the Divine, with God, but don’t feel comfortable or accepted in the traditional church setting? There is a journey for all. “Come to me ALL who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” It doesn’t say ‘how’ we are to come, or through what religious or doctrinal door we are to enter. God simply says, “Come all”…..