Spiritual journeys are an interesting thing. They aren’t like any other journey we take in life. Most of the time we know where we are going, right? We have a destination in mind, type it into Google Maps and hit the start button, then we listen to the annoying directions, “Head north on Elm Street. Which way is north? Turn right in 400 feet, turn right in 300 feet, turn right….” Ok, I get it! I will be turning right, lest I forget in the next 200 feet, but at least we are now using right as a direction. Without Google Maps, where would we be? I would be lost because of a sad affliction: I am directionally challenged. Fortunately, God has never directed me north, south, east or west.
My spiritual journey has been years in the making, as it turns out. From the little people chairs in Sunday School to repeating the words of the Prayer of Salvation, and through a dimly lit tunnel of confusion I have finally emerged into daylight. The tunnel of confusion taught me much after I stopped fighting what I thought I knew, if that makes any sense. Religion taught me to confine God to a box, except God kept getting out of the box. Quite maddening, really.
Borrowing some profound lyrics from one of my favorite songs compliments of the band Queen, “thunderbolt of lightning, very very frightening…”. Voila, it finally made sense. God was not designed to stay in a box. Go figure? Religion designed God’s box, but God is neither religious nor able to be confined, so why did man try? Humanity has forever thought themselves more clever than God, thus the opening book of the Bible, Genesis. Although I do not believe the Bible to be a literal documentary of events, for the most part, I do believe it to be analogy and metaphor. Adam and Eve believed they knew better than God. They had been warned about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. According to the Biblical account their decision landed us in the predicament we find ourselves; born sinful right out of the starting gate. No matter if the Garden of Eden actually happened or not, religion chose to confine God to a box and made God something to fear. Read the Old Testament, it’s a story about a vengeful, jealous, fickle God who demanded perfection from His people. Tell me that is not borrowed straight from many of the pagan religions.
Religion instills fear in its followers. Designing a box for God meant building its walls with bricks of fear and condemnation. Yes, yes, I know Paul taught there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, those who believe are free indeed. But, isn’t fear built into that statement? Accept Jesus and live free from condemnation, do not accept Jesus and, well, face condemnation. Doesn’t sound like much of a choice to me. The walls of the box man built for God are inscribed with the characteristics of man. One would think an infinite God, a Being capable of creating the universe and all within it and many galaxies beyond our finite reach wouldn’t be subject to petty jealousy, fits of anger and impulsivity.
Interestingly, my spiritual journey has taught me God is much different from the God I met in church. The God outside the church is love in its purest form. There is no judgment coming from Divine Love, no one passing out condemnation for the slightest transgression, no fiery pits of hell awaiting the condemned. God is love; nothing more, nothing less. Discovering Divine Love freed me from fear of judgment and condemnation, fear of saying, doing, thinking anything outside the acceptable, fear of knowing God outside of religion. We are perfect beings created from Divine Love to learn, experience, and grow while living in imperfect bodies in an imperfect world, yet religion teaches us to fear growth outside the box. In a sense, we are like babies who learn as they grow. As parents we don’t condemn them for their mistakes, do we? Why would God?
The difference between religion and spirituality lies within its purpose; religion was designed to control, spirituality promotes growth, wisdom, and knowledge. There is a significant difference. Horticulture is certainly not a strong suit for me, but I would think if I planted a tree and confined its growth between narrow walls it would look much different from a tree planted and left to grow unfettered. So, lesson one (1) on my spiritual journey was to discover God apart from religious teaching. I’m not going to lie, it was a difficult lesson, religion was deeply rooted in my spirit. As much as I struggled with God from inside the box, I was not able to see God outside the box because fear stood in my way.
Fear is a double-edged sword; it can be protective at times, and at others, paralyzing. For me, seeing God outside the box brought paralyzing fear. What if I was wrong? What if religion was right on all counts? Thus the tunnel of confusion. When I stopped struggling and listened to innate wisdom, the voice of Divine Love within, the pieces began to fall in place. I realized the struggle was against religion, not God. God was there all along patiently waiting for me to finally give up and listen, to understand boundaries are within, not outside. I didn’t need the confines of a religious system designed to control, I needed to learn at the knee of Divine Love. Freedom to grow, freedom to be who I was created to be, not someone wrangling with teachings and doctrines unable to serve the higher good.
Does the baby need to be thrown out with the bathwater? No, I do not believe it does. I needed to abandon religion’s well-constructed box, not God. God is, and ever will be, precious to me. Do I believe everyone needs to walk away from religion? No, I do not, but for those who struggle, it may be the right decision…..