When I was growing up, my faith felt like an insurance policy for heaven, something most people didn’t like having to do but the alternative put you in a world of risk.
My religious world was structured with “Thou Shalt Nots,” guilt and eternal damnation for choices I saw people make every day. The dogma was very confusing and scary to a child.
Could anyone explain the logic behind original sin? Who is this God that makes it so easy for me to ruin my life by just being born? How could God, The Source of Love, ultimately sentence me to live without his love? Is love supposed to scare you into its arms?
The stock replies to my questions underscored the same theme: God’s love has conditions. I knew in my heart that is not true, and the God does not judge nor shun his children. The answers weren’t in my church.
Never miss a local story.
Other churches offered different belief systems, and I liked aspects of these churches’ beliefs, yet the idea I had to “belong” to a socially approved faith practice in order to obtain a relationship with God did not feel right, either.
I looked back at those moments when I felt closest to God. Each of those moments had an experience where I felt a deep, emotional connection to who I am.
I know now it was the mystery of life leaving me bread crumbs to find my way back home. The bread crumbs were laid over a trail of many years.
I remember lying on the cool earth, eye to eye with the thin stalks of forest undergrowth celebrating their reunion with spring, so densely packed they made their own forest. I felt my heart beat against the moist dirt and sensed a greater presence beneath the dirt, its heart beating with mine.
I read somewhere that the aliens that some believe were captured at Roswell said, “God is the universe.” I remember something jumping in my heart in response. Wait, what? Aliens? It wasn’t the aliens that were important, but it was what they said that was important. Was the manifest world the visible body of God?
A number of years ago when I read Seth Speaks and happened upon the contentious idea that “we create our own reality,” my sister said, “Well, I sure as hell didn’t create the gas station on the corner.” I laughed but had the nagging feeling the idea was important to me without understanding why.
I identified with Joseph Campbell’s urging to follow your bliss: “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.”
Why did these and other ideas loiter like desperate fans after a concert waiting for their idol, hoping he hadn’t already left? Did those ideas deserve at least some attention for their trouble?
And did God have anything to do with keeping them waiting for me?
I chose to listen. After passionate searching, it turns out they were ideas that led me to a new way to understand the world, a way that feels more real than most explanations holding sway today, and a way to appreciate the divine hand in everything. I made the choice to look for the answers that felt right for me and I found God waiting there for me, not that he didn’t drop those bread crumbs or anything...
Terri Henges is one of the new rotation of Faith Walkers for The Star. She can be reached at email@example.com.