Saturday, August 2, 2008

Allowing the Space

Stop fighting.

This is the message I heard when I was at the YAF gathering in Richmond, IN this past May. It was not a message intended for anyone but myself, and I knew instinctually what it was referring to: I needed to stop fighting within myself.

Over the past few months, prior to this gathering, I had fallen once again into a spiral of doubts about God. What if everything is predetermined and all we are are molecules bumping into each other in some incredibly complicated series of reactions? How could I claim to believe in some higher “being”, when more and more I learn about neuroscience, about how all our experiences are just a bunch of neurons firing in some specific way? Holding these doubts and trying to remember my experiences, I was fighting for God. I wanted to find a reason to believe, some way of explaining everything so that my skeptical, scientific thoughts would calm down and not torment me so much, and over and over again I have gotten lost.

But this, as I slowly come to realize each time I go through it, is not the right question. Stop fighting, God said. I believe it a little more each time.

I often find myself wanting to be more spiritual, particularly on a daily basis. I think about how I should try to implement some system where I have silent time every day, or time for some spiritual reading, and then I judge myself when I fail utterly to do this. I have preconceived ideas about what being more spiritual should look like. This leaves no room for what it does look like.

It is hard to say, “Ok, God, I won’t actively try to pray every day because it’s clearly not working for me” without feeling like I’m giving up or not trying hard enough. But that’s just the problem: I’ve been trying too hard. I’ve not been leaving space for God.

Last summer I was at a gathering in Barnesville OH. I felt incredibly unfocused on the first couple of days. Come Sunday morning I wanted desperately to be present and focused. I tried for a good while to will myself into a grounded place. Finally, with frustration, I did what I thought was giving up. I said to myself, “Fine. I’ll just wait.” I felt like a defiant child. (It’s funny to note now how meeting is often described as a time to wait upon God’s word.) A little while later someone gave a message which struck me deeply, and after sorting through some things within myself, I felt grounded the entire rest of the week. When I put down my own will, my own expectation, I made space for that grounded-ness.

Now, having spent a few months tenderly trying to let go of my expectations of myself, of what spirituality is and means, and what God could be in terms of science, I find a deeper spirituality slowly creeping in. Earlier this week before having a difficult conversation with someone, I found myself praying that my words come from a place of love and not fear, genuinely turning to God for guidance without worrying about what God is, or about what prayer is. I prayed without congratulating myself for finally praying. I was just doing what felt right to me: asking for help in a time of concern, when I felt lost.

I am finally beginning to have space for God in my life, now that I’m not trying so hard to squeeze God in where I think God might fit best. I’m learning to stop fighting, to stop trying to define my experiences with one specific way of thinking. I’m learning to stop trying to will myself into some mold that I think is appropriate, and I'm learning to stop judging myself so harshly about all of it.

As for God, for me it’s not about belief. It’s not about whether or not some higher entity exists in some definable way. God, for me, is about experiencing life, about letting go, and about finding ways to let love move through me. God is my lack of control, my compassion. God is the whole where I am a piece. God is knowing that we are all imperfect, and that it’s ok.

Much love to all,

1 comment:

cath said...

I love the way your post started out with you engaged in a struggle to "do something" to be spiritual and ended with a sense of God being love moving through you.

I've always found that thinking of my spiritual life as a relationship with God frees me up to be more informal and takes the pressure to perform certain acts away. Interestingly, once the pressure is off, I find myself able to find time for daily silence and inspirational reading.

But not without first cultivating (and continuing to cultivate) the sense that God's Spirit is right there with (and in) me all day long. And I can make idle conversation with God--or witty remarks--or snarky ones, even.

The point is that if I acknowledge and tend to the relationship, the rest will follow. It's like any other valued relationship. If I care about the person enough to pay attention to how we are communicating and relating on a day-to-day basis (even in the most mundane ways), the outward signs of my affection will naturally appear.