I attend a Unitarian Universalist church. It is filled with questioners, and people who strive to embrace everyone's journey regardless of their own personal faith. As a result, we sometimes dance around God carefully, even to the point of avoiding the G- word entirely, so as not to make waves. I think this is a mistake, and that is what the minister addressed in yesterday's service.
The God that many reject is a sage elderly man who makes judgements and decisions about humanity, even down to the rain on your wedding day or a winning lottery ticket. I understand rejecting this kind of deity, but there is so much more to God than that tired old image.
Like many others, I grew up attending a Christian church. It was wonderful to feel cherished and watched over by that serene man in the stained glass window who loved children. When I grew to be a thinking, questioning teenager I couldn't reconcile my intellect with the God of my childish mind, and I went through years of doubt.
I wanted to believe. I envied those with powerful faith that seemed to light them up and give them such joy, strength, optimism, and capacity to love. I began to meet more and more people that I cared for and admired that had found these qualities in their lives - joy, strength, courage, hope, patience, love- through their religion. But it was through so many religions - Judaism, many versions of Christianity, Buddhism, elements of Hinduism, and some new age, harder to define faiths. Others were infused with the same qualities with no religion at all. They were inspired by humanity, or nature, or science.
What I finally decided was that it did not matter where one's inspiration came from. If someone is inspired to be the best, happiest, and most contributing person that they can be in this world, in this lifetime, then how could that be wrong in anyone's eyes?
Still, the comfort of a belief in God - something outside of my physical self that I could actually feel, speak to, and look to for inner guidance - was still something that I wished for. I prayed, and asked for assurance. In my egocentric youth I personally addressed this possible God and requested proof, please, so that I can be sure.
But nothing happened for a long time.
Then on March 8th, 1987 I came to the end of my first pregnancy. I had no pain drugs, and it all progressed rather fast and furiously. I am sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the last thing I was considering while in the throes of last stage labor and torn parts in sensitive places, was my wonderings about God. They really were not in the forefront of my life the vast majority of the time, even when I wasn't distracted by other things.
But something happened when I first held A. in my arms. It hit me like a tidal wave, out of nowhere. Words are insufficient and diminish the experience, but they are all I have to use. I felt God. I felt him "speak" to me as I held this small being in my arms that had, miraculously, come from inside of my body. "Here you go," he said. "Here is your proof. I exist. Now you can stop bothering me with your questions."
God does not speak English, so it's a poor translation, but that was the general idea.
Of course. Of course I have had glimmers of doubt that creep up on me again now and then. But I vowed to myself in that moment that I would never, never forget the experience that was given to me in that overwhelming moment.
"It was a sense of wonder, " my mother said to me lovingly when I told her the story one day. A sense of wonder. That is my favorite metaphor for God. I don't ever want to stop feeling that sense, and sometimes it takes an effort to dig down and find it again.
A. likes this story. I can see her saying "I made my mother believe in God!" with that smile of hers that has conquered thousands. She is a gift to me in so many ways, and continues to bring me joy every day.
Happy Birthday my darling girl! (which you'll always be, no matter how old you get)
You are a light at the core of my being.