A dear friend visited me yesterday. She has Stuff to deal with. She asked me what came across as a very broad question. I asked her to try to hone in on what it is she really wants to know; I think good questions are tremendously important. I'm not sure you can be genuinely prepared to receive a soul-satisfying answer if you don't give careful attention to honestly facing and articulating your true questions. It's too easy to be afraid or lazy when looking for enlightenment or comfort. Far too easy to passively wish to be automatically, wordlessly, magically understood and handed an easy revelation.
(This is not an indictment of my friend, but the stream of thought that has been trickling through my head lately, and our conversation yesterday made me want to roll up my pants legs and stick my feet in the bone-chill water for a little refreshment.)
One of the more specific questions she came up with had to do with why I believe in God. That's a good question. It invites me to do some pondering and I'm actually looking forward to taking a lengthier private inventory of my experiences. I fumbled around to put together an initial response—I'm no great conversationalist—but my friend was patient with me (as she typically is).
Last night the thought came to me and I woke up with it this morning too: I believe in God because I choose to. That might sound somewhat lame or ignorant to you. Does it? What I mean is that, independent of all the evidences and persuasions and moments of peace and enlightenment and pure understanding that have come to me over the years, apart from those quiet personal sacraments that whisper to me there is a God, the main reason I believe is that I will myself to believe. I don't take away the importance of faith-encouraging influences; I only acknowledge that the choice to believe has always been and always will be mine and mine alone to make. It's not possible that belief could ever have been forced upon me; it's ultimately independent of both the uplifting and the destructive influences of others (family, friends, enemies) and all they've invested (or blasted) in my spiritual education. I don't wish to be a separate entity; I'm no island, and I'm happily part of the whole. The influences are there. The connections are there, for good or ill; I acknowledge them. I'm not fully me without you. Still, I'm autonomous. It's a paradox. I'm an agent. Will is mine to wield. And I can't blame you or anyone or anything for getting in the way of my exercising that will. No matter what's come in from outside, and likewise, no matter what my choices have been to this moment, my power to choose belief and life right now remains untainted, untouchable. It's mine. And there's no lasting reason for me to live feeling oppressed or resentful at having been trodden upon, even spiritually, if that's been my lot. I am perfectly free at every point to choose. And I choose to believe.
It's so easy to wish to go back and re-do life, start from scratch on choices, even erase the detested influence of people we imagine have done us developmental harm. But it's not necessary. Also, not possible. It can turn into a bottomless distraction that succeeds in keeping us from living in the present. That's tragic. I've busied myself with such pointless pursuits, maybe spent years of my life on them, but I've stopped counting. I don't mean to make light of pain and disappointment, but I see now I could have given myself permission to be free a long time ago if I'd understood how, and soothed my soul with good questions and other choices: reading more books, exploring more canyons, spending more time laughing with and loving people, licking an ice cream cone rather than my wounds. I didn't know then. But I do now. And I choose to believe and be happy.
Here's a different scenario. A couple weeks ago I found myself in a deep funk. I was so far down in the hole I couldn't see any light, and for the life of me I couldn't connect the depression to an event, or a dumb thought process, or hormones, or anything at all. I can usually find a loose thread if I really search for one (not that I always want to search when I'm down in the hole). It didn't make sense. I was thinking fine. But some weird black desperation came over me, so heavy and thick I couldn't move from the couch all evening. I just sat. I tried to get myself up—Come on! Get up! Shake it off!—but I literally felt unable to move my body. Rob was working late in the shop. All I had to do to call for his company was walk across the room, pick up the phone, and speak into the intercom. Too much. And I felt awful thinking of crying at him over nothing. I didn't want to suggest to him in any way that I was asking him to fix me. After a couple hours of this paralysis and many confused tears and prayers choking in my throat, I opened up my laptop (which luckily was so near to me I barely had to reach for it) and looked up a neglected blog I used to visit daily, one I adored for its unsinkable good cheer and hopeful outlook, and I read a few posts by way of catch-up. This one caught my attention in particular. It's so sweet and so simple, nothing I hadn't considered before on my own, yet it had a profound effect on my mind as I read it. It was as if I discovered a key in my hand that unlocked the door shut before me, and now I was free to walk into a different room, or any room at all. I felt a strong impression that I believe came from God: "Rob can't make you happy. No one can make you happy. Not even I [God] can make you happy, nor would I want to. The power to be happy is yours alone. It belongs to you. No one, not even I, can ever take it away." And I understood absolutely. There was no sense of correction or discipline in those words that filled up my head, only joyful acknowledgement, a sense of elated sharing. It was if God was saying to me: "In the end, it's all up to you. Isn't that FABULOUS?!" I got it. I agreed with it. I loved it. I was overjoyed. I wanted to shout! I felt an enormous surge of energy—power in the very finest sense; it was astonishing and it didn't leave me the rest of the evening. Just one brilliant little idea put me on my feet and back into my right mind. I could think, I could move, I could laugh. What a thought—even God can't make me happy. Of course He has the power to bless and help and heal and more; His is no insignificant power. But He, the greatest we know, even our anchor and salvation, cannot rule my will and desires never to trespass against my agency. And that is as exciting to perfect Him as it is to in-process me. I haven't adequate words to describe the entire experience, but I believe I was in communion with the Divine Nature. Mine and yours and His is the power to love and serve and give all we have and are, but not one of us is or can be responsible for another's happiness.
I knew it before. But now I know it in a way that makes me feel electric.
Can you see how it ties in with the first part of this post? I hope so. I am typed out.
I'm having other Big Thoughts (big to me anyway) about healers and healees and motes and beams and how all they relate to this recent landslide of thinks, but I've spent way too long already writing here, and it's time to make lunch.
Here's a reward for you if you made it to the end of this near-endless navel-gaze: