Tuesday, 15 July 2014

pondering the mystery of belief, in the wee small hours of morning

It's five am and I've been awake for an hour. (yes, I'm now typing this at 10:30 am - consider it a delayed broadcast) Of course, my mind begins to ponder a question sparked by the conversation I'd had a few days earlier, on doubt and whether God exists. Why do you believe in God, Sarah? 

I was introduced to God as soon as my life began - my family belong to the Christian faith tradition and to the Uniting Church tribe. It is an interesting thought whether I would have known God anyway, I seem to have always been a spiritually open and attentive person. However, the story is as it is, and my experience of God is shaped by the Uniting Church and by my family.

What clinches it for me is my experience. Yes, my faith tradition gave me words, stories and practices to help understand my experience. But the fact remains that I have always known the presence of God near me. I talk to God all the time. OK, sometimes I am not intentionally addressing God, and to be sure sometimes I am madly talking to myself (and occasionally, answering). And yet, I am aware that there is another, a listener beyond myself, a companion always with me.

I believe in God because my experience has always been that God is with me, or that where I am is in or within God.

The Judeo-Christian story of God as just and compassionate resonates with that experience. That we are created from the overflowing of love makes sense to me, and that the fulness of our being is found through a path of justice, compassion and humble love - the Way of God as told in Hebrew and Christian sacred texts - likewise makes sense of my experience, of life.


We have a responsibility to pass on what we have learnt - to tell our story. So our spiritual ancestors told the stories of their experience of life, of God, what they had learnt. And we tell those stories today because they are the foundational stories of our faith tradition, and they tell us who we are, as much as they show us God.

Stories and poetry - which form the bulk of the Bible's texts - are especially suited to telling what we learn about God, for what we learn is experienced but cannot adequately be put into words. The way stories and poetry use language generally so inadequate to express our experience of the Divine Mystery allows space for audiences to feel, and in the feeling, to find connection, reflect and discover meaning in their own experience.

We are fully human together, so we make meaning of our lived experience together - in the sharing of stories that say, this is my, or one, experience, and invite others into the spaces for a meeting of stories and experiences that leads to further understanding.

As for stories about God and the different traditions that exist - I am comfortable with God begin bigger than one set of stories can possibly tell. I was born into a tradition that continues to be life-giving for me. But I will not assume that this tradition will be life-giving for all, and will celebrate the various paths, traditions, stories that humans may find as they reach for the fulness of their being.

I love that other faith traditions also give expression to this kind of experience of the Divine - justice, compassion and humility seem to feature in the stories of the spiritual ancestors of humans whatever shape the stories and the practices they inspire, may take.


Ultimately, coming back to the question that woke me from my slumber, I believe in God because that relationship I have always had with God, the assumption that God is here, or I am in God, gave me hope in the midst of deep despair. Because of the profound and intimate connection I have always felt to Spirit, Wisdom, Creator, I chose life, when the pain of depression had me wishing for life to end.

I believe in God because it is in God that I find hope, meaning, healing, wholeness.

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