my ever CHANGING faith

I hate drying dishes.  Also folding laundry.  Unfortunately, laundry doesn’t fold itself, but dishes do dry themselves!  🙂  So while I wait for my dishes to take some responsibility in this household and dry themselves, I thought I would continue my “to be continued” post from the other day

I wanted to continue my thoughts because as I was writing, I realized that my understanding of God has been changing recently.  It seems natural to go through periods of change in a person’s life, doesn’t it?  How boring would it be if we lived a century with the same perspectives, beliefs, opinions!  As I’ve said before, I have had the feeling of God being inside me and all around me for as long as I can remember.  At the same time, I didn’t really understand the Jesus element of the story.  I had learned in school that Easter was the most important holiday in the church, and I couldn’t understand why.  Jesus, to me, was a very important historical character in our religion, a great teacher of how to live and how to treat others, but nothing more. 

Then, when I was 22, I was reading Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris.  It’s basically a book about courtship and romantic relationships from a biblical perspective.  I literally came upon this book in the public library and checked it out because I felt like I had heard of the author somewhere.  (I’m beginning to think God waits for me in public libraries!)  I’m reading away, zipping through this book, because I just can’t get enough of the true stories and anecdotes that are sprinkled throughout.  One morning I was reading in my apartment before class, and I got to a particular quote from another source.  It was a long quote, maybe a couple of pages, and it was sort of a narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The author really portrayed it from what he imagined Jesus’ perspective would be, as taking the punishment for our own sins, my own personal sinfulness.  I don’t know what it was about that particular version of this story I have heard a million times before, but I really heard it that time.  I got it, the whole point of Jesus being here in the first place, dying on the cross.  I really understood that Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher from the past, but someone whose choices impact me, eternally. 

That was one great change in my understanding of God.  I can’t help but think that I wasn’t meant to understand until that moment.  I hear the same words at church now as I did for 22 years before that, and it’s obvious to me that the Bible and the Mass spell out Jesus’ purpose for us all to hear.  But somehow I missed it.  They say if you’re open to God He will come into you, and if you close yourself off to Him, He can’t.  But I was so open to God as a child, and probably never more closed off to Him than toward the end of college.  So I think He chose that moment to come and find me, I didn’t do anything. 

So, for a few years, my stand has been that I can’t get caught up in religion or spirituality or the “feeling of God,” because the focus needs to be on Jesus, on the cross, on what God sent His own son to do for us.  But I’m starting to think that if I do that, I’m missing the rest of the story.  I’ve been thinking of God as a person, but maybe He’s not.  Jesus is a person, and he’s also divine, and he really came to earth to do that for me.  God is more, He’s everything and everywhere.  He’s everything good that happens to us, and a lot of the bad also.  He’s the thing that runs between us all, connects us as humanity and creation.  Everything He made has a bit of Him in it, including nature, including beauty, including us.  Christianity really might not be any truer than any other religion, maybe humanity created religion because we are incapable of seeing the big picture.  I am incapable of seeing the big picture, that’s for sure!  We as humans are incapable of comprehending God. 

Faith is believing in something you can’t see or understand, and yet I’ve been trying so hard to organize my faith, make it fit into a space in my heart.  But when I do that, I miss out on the joys I grew up with.  Why do we bow, kneel, or genuflect?  God is not literally up on that altar!  Why do we light candles?  Do we really think that God sees a little flame and comes running?  Why do we use holy water?  How can some water be any holier than other water?  I love holy water!  Faith is the true magic in the world, or at least in my world.  Maybe it’s not holy water for you, maybe you raise your hands to Jesus as your worship team leads Amazing Grace, or maybe it’s praying facing Mecca, or wearing a yarmulke, or meditating.  But it’s all the same magic.  God really is in the water, and on the altar, and in a flame.  He may be in the bottle of water I’m drinking right now just as much as He’s in the baptismal font, but why shouldn’t I stop at the font and remember that He’s there?  He’s also inside me, and inside the next person I meet.  He’s already here, all the time, in me and all around me, just like when I was a kid.  Being reminded through one of those traditions brings the “feeling of God,” which brings me closer to Him.

I have to say, that’s the first time I’ve ever had to spell genuflect or yarmulke!  🙂  A bit of research was necessary!  (By the way, in case you’re wondering, a yarmulke is the round head covering thing that Jewish men wear.  I would have spelled it “yamaka,” but I would have been wrong!)

Here’s my point: At this moment, I feel like my faith is no longer tucked away in a place deep within me, but I am immersed in my faith.  That’s the best way I know how to explain it.  Pope John Paul II said:

The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.

Did you catch that?  He was a smart guy, yes?  🙂  My body, my own being, is the way to see the spiritual and divine in this world.  Whether through crossing myself with holy water, or doing yoga, or being intimate with someone I love, I am one with God.  The “feeling of God,” the spirituality that is running through all of us, is available to me at any time, just because of the fact that I am human.

Oh, and by the way, the “Jesus element” is more true than ever for me!  It’s just not the only thing anymore.  It’s one important part of a wonderful story that I will never know from beginning to end as long as I’m in this world.

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