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This Month's New Thought Essay

When I first experienced God it scared the heck out of me. I was amazed and awed, and really kind of afraid. The whole idea seemed so far beyond me, or my ability to understand. I thought to myself, What is this? And what am I supposed to do with it? You can’t really mean me, God. It’s just me.

All my life I had always thought that God was the ultimate unreachable thing. He/it was up there beyond the rooftops of the evening sky, the same evening sky I gazed at as a child falling asleep in the blissful summertime. I thought God lived up there, so infinitely far Beyond the Beyond that we human beings could not even imagine how far it was. But He visited us on Sundays at church. Sometimes I thought I could feel Him there, hovering above us, even right there in the room. The very room itself was called the Sanctuary, because it was good enough for God to come to.

At our Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. Carleton told us that Jesus had actually said, when he was here on earth, that whenever two or three of us join together in his name, he would be there. He said “I am among you.” So it was a very big deal, and something I recognized as special and sacred, to go to church and be in the same room with God and maybe Jesus too.

I never did understand about the Holy Trinity, and I still don’t. What I do understand now is that a very large amount of the stuff we have named religion is symbolic stuff, ideas we/somebody conceived over the centuries to try to help us understand about God-ness; what it is and how it works. The ancient religions like Taoism and Hinduism recognized that God and Universe could not be spoken or written or explained, but could only be known by direct experience of, and union with, God.

So for thousands of years the people who knew God were called saints, prophets, or master teachers. Or crazy. Some of the master teachers, like Buddha, Jesus Christ, and many others (please add your own) taught or spoke or wrote truths that are still being discovered even today. We can still learn a lot about God from “the word” which is a very powerful thing but not the same as knowing by direct experience of God’s presence, knowing in our blood and in our bones that God is not outside of us but is an inseparable aspect of us.

What’s different now is that we, one by one, are waking up to who and what we truly are: sons and daughters of God. For the first time in such large numbers, ordinary people like you and me are realizing and admitting right out in the open that there is something amazing going on, and we are part and parcel of it.

We know, beyond denial, that we are created by God, creators ourselves, and co-creators with God. We are not now and never have been separate from God. He doesn’t just visit us in church, but instead is always right here, right now. And we are beginning the almost incomprehensible task of learning, and trying to understand, what that means.

We all have access to the experience of God, but still it seems so unimaginable. Maybe even frightening. If we acknowledge and accept our sonship, then what? What will God expect of us? Deepak Chopra says our main responsibility here in this life is to discover our true self, and then express that in the world. Easier said than done, of course.

My own understanding is still very disorganized and new, and I have no clear idea what to do with it, except that somehow I’ve got to recognize it as true, accept it as my own, and then find a way to give it away. Maybe this is the basic experience of God for many of us: you know it’s really real; it scares the heck out of you; you know you have been given a gift (which you may not even be sure you want) and a responsibility to pass it on.

Remember Jesus' parable about the servants and the master of the house? And the master gives each servant a sum of money (some silver coins that were called “talents” in those days) and they each did something different with the money? One of them spent his money, and another one buried it in the ground (in the bank for safekeeping). But the master was pleased most with the one who invested the money and brought back an increase – the one who made it grow. I never really “got” this before, but now I can see clearly that the story is not about money; it’s about gifts. And the worst thing you can do is hide your “talents” in the ground.

One evening I came home from work, dog tired, and dropped myself into my favorite chair. Outside the window I could see the twilight sky, and the dark treeline along the pale horizon, not quite dark. After a frantic, stressful workday, everything here was peaceful and still, and I just sort of let myself melt into the depths of my old chair. I don’t know exactly why, but I asked softly to the twilight, "God, what are you about? And what do you want of me?" I could feel a presence, and a change, in the very air of the room. God's answer was not in words, so I can’t tell you, but you can ask Him yourself.

Many references come up in the Bible and other sacred scriptures about "living in the Light" and not "hiding your light" but holding it high instead, so everyone nearby can see by it. Light is often a metaphor for Spirit, for Christhood, for understanding, for God-wisdom. The word “illumination” is often used to express the personal experience of God. We have, each and every one of us, been given a share of talents, and the gift of light.

I sometimes wonder if Jesus knew how scary it would be to stand up and show that light. Because, after all, if you shine your light, you can’t hide yourself and be safe. Everybody can see you. You are so exposed and vulnerable. I think he knew. It was a hundred years after he left here that somebody wrote about what he did and what his life was like, so nobody really knows what he felt, his fears, or his moments of uncertainty. He lived a human life, just like us, so he must have had all the same emotions as we do.

But yet, he knew who he was. To do less, he would have had to choose to Be less. A whole lot of us are making that choice, to be less, because it’s safer. It’s easier. God does not blame us; God does not punish us. Whatever we do in our lives is always our choice. And whatever we do, whatever we choose, we do not do it alone. Dear God help me, I’m gonna stand up and hold up my little candle.