Thursday, November 03, 2016

Experience of God

by Henk Hart
"A garden, God's primordial meeting place." --Photo by Henk Hart
Many committed people of faith no longer resonate with traditional meanings of the word “God.” Some books written by Christians reject the classic notion of God altogether. This seems a good time for Christians to have focused discussions on who in their world God is. In the blogs I’ve submitted thus far I’ve shared my private and personal thoughts, in the hope of stimulating others to share their thoughts. Unfortunately, churches do not encourage such discussion. If they did perhaps less people would leave. This seems like a time to find God anew. Maybe churches can become gardens.
Can we talk with God? Does God hear? Does God answer? Can we know we’ve been heard? For many Christians God is no longer a specific personal being. They experience God as light, or force, or life. That way God is meaningful. For them (and for me) the questions just asked become irresistible, especially when we think about prayer.

When we reflect on this it helps to consider that when God is experienced only in symbolic or metaphoric ways, then it is likely that God’s and our speaking and hearing also need to be taken in that way. We can speak from, or with, or in our hearts in ways that do not specifically depend on speech as sounds made with lips and intended to be heard by ears. And we can experience God hearing us as an experience of gratitude and blessing. We can be in a garden (a classic place for meeting God) and silently focus on what surrounds us and after a while know that our hearts overflow with the nurturing presence of the light (God), that we are soothed and uplifted by the gentle wind (Spirit), and that all creatures address us (Word). Such meditative experiences can gain in depth when we experience these realities in ways that can meaningfully be translated as Presence, Light, Uplifted, Wind. The capitalization accentuates the spiritual concentration of our experience, indicating a hightened and intensified form of being with these realities as they point beyond themselves to their source. And we can relate this to more traditional language and experience by saying that the triune God saw our gratitude and blessed us.


When our hearts yearn for healing and we enter a garden, the trees, the blooms, the skies, the light, the rustling leaves can all speak to our hearts and direct our yearning to a power that comes to us in and through all these. When our hearts open up to them, they intensify their presence in surrounding us. Their reality is magnified. They can teach/tell us that from beyond them and through them, an invisible and impenetrable mystery comes into our hearts, revealing the power we experience as Healing Power. We can say we experienced God.


To hear God in the garden we need to hear the silence, to see the light as light, to feel one with all the other creatures and to feel accepted by them as one of them. In such a space a crow’s cry can carry God’s voice, the rustling leaves can whisper God’s comfort, the air can surround us with God’s presence.


Someone said: “Today is Sunday, I want to be with God today, I will not go to church.” Is God not in church? Not necessarily, not always, and sometimes emphatically not there (of all places). God will be found where our hearts tell us to seek/meet God.

Someone said: “Today is Sunday, I want to be with God today, I will go to church.” Is God in church? That Sunday God wasn’t.

Someone said: “Today is Sunday, I want to be with God today, I will go to church.” Is God in church? That Sunday the congregation joyfully acknowledged that God was there. But someone did not meet God.

Someone said: “Today is Sunday, I want to be with God today, I will go to church.” Is God in church? That Sunday people were upset, angry, and irritated because God wasn’t there. But for someone God was.


When or why do we say “God?” All things, all that is, all reality is found to be interrelated, in relationship, in contact, in touch. We can think of nothing to which we are not, in some way, related. When all we do is think of something, it cannot be something to which we are not in some way related. Our thinking is relational. In their interrelatedness things are mobile. They move out of past into present toward future. They move in and out of specific relationships. Whence does it all come, where does it go? Beginning and end are unsearchable. Who can find them? They are not visible, though they can be envisioned. Yet in the silence of alpha and omega we can, if we know how to listen, hear beginning and end, origin and destiny. Our destiny is hidden in hope. Our hope can reveal a mystery we can trust. In the sounds of silence we can discern paths to peace, joy, love, beauty, life, health, goodness, promise, truth, grace, light. Walking on these paths can lead to wisdom. In wisdom we can meet God, in whom we live and move and have our being; from whom and unto whom we are. God is a name for the deep well with the water for all that lives. We can give thanks for the ways in which the water gives life, and for the fulfillment of all that lives in fullness.


If God is all in all and all things to all people, the ways of God and to God are infinite. But we are finite. Of all the ways we can go, we can maybe go a few in our life time, probably only one. Recognizing our neighbors on their way is a way of living with God and cultivating our own way is a way of loving ourselves.


If the way we are on is the way of Christ (called himself the way and his followers called themselves people of the way), it will be helpful to articulate our spiritual experience in language rooted in authentic readings of Biblical texts. That will help us create spiritual communion with other Christians. Such authentic readings must have a “classic” feel, a ring of being true and revealing, authenticated by the text, affirmed by others and affirming of them.

This piece is part of the Ground Motive project From Henk's Archives.

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