God, Divine Love, Source, the Universe – all names given to the higher power, the One, the spiritual Being, Creator of all that is. In so many big and small ways we are the recipient of grace and mercy, of love, of encouragement every single day of our earthly lives. Unless we are tuned in, we will miss them. Years ago I left the church, but I didn’t leave God behind. Together, we began a journey of discovery and awakening.
For the majority of my life in some way, I was involved with organized religion. As a child I was baptized, attended Sunday School, was confirmed, led Bible Studies, facilitated Youth Group discussions – you name it, I did it in several denominations and flavors of religion. Always, I felt like a round peg being pounded into a square hole. I didn’t fit. To be fair, for most of my life I haven’t felt like I fit anywhere. Ever feel that way? Thus my journey to figure out me, and life, and God, and where I fit in.
Maybe some people are just meant to be out of step with the majority. I don’t see myself as a mover and shaker in any way, but it seems that movers and shakers are non-conformists. I am a non-conformist. In terms of spirituality, I don’t feel an overwhelming need to learn and adopt the language of a particular religion or spiritual movement. During my church days, I heard myself speak Christian-ese and it sounded foreign to my ears. Who is that and why is she speaking that foreign language? It was me, but I didn’t recognize me. Eventually, I dropped the church-speak. Throughout my spiritual journey I have used the words associated with spiritual pursuits, but again, not me. Finally, I decided I am spiritually unspiritual, will speak my mind, and not worry about the nuances of spiritual speak. Sometimes particular words have to be used, however. Awakening, for one. What is awakening? It’s one of those fancy spiritual words spiritual people like to use – to be spiritually awake simply means we are tuned into Divine Love and the created universe.
Recently, my mom and I discussed religion vs. spirituality. She is in her 80’s, set in her ways, and attends the church of her youth. She told me she had failed my brother and me because neither of us attends church, nor do we make our children – who are all adults, by the way. Adjusting for age, routine, and church attendance out of a sense of nostalgia, I still could not find the magic words to help her understand that religion and spirituality are not the same. Religion involves ritual, spirituality is more fluid – from my perspective, anyway. I questioned why attending the church she grew up in was so important to her given the fact that she is conservative and attends one of the most liberal denominations in Christendom. Her answer? Because she feels at peace in the pew and likes to visit with fellow members. So, basically, because the building represents God and helps fill her need for socialization. Is God not everywhere? Did Jesus tell his disciples to build a church and start services? She changed the subject, ending with criticism for me not attending church on the upcoming Easter Sunday.
What do we do with significant people in our lives who do not understand nor want to understand our journey? We can break off the relationship altogether, accept the criticism and punish ourselves for being out of step with the norm, or we can accept their views and choose to not participate in any judgment of their beliefs.
I believe God, Divine Love, or whatever word we choose to use, is bigger than rituals and doctrines. I believe God is within each of us and not found in a building. I believe that each of our journeys must be meaningful to us and need not look like anyone else’s. I believe God is interested in us and interested in journeying with us to help us become our best selves. I believe God, Divine Love, wants us to be kind, forgiving, loving, and merciful individuals…..